Which Came First?

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Greta Zwieg forges masterpieces. With her copies on their walls and the original paintings safely hidden, the noble families of Austria can rest assured their treasures will survive Napoleon’s advances. But now Greta’s uncle is changing the rules, selling her counterfeits as originals. Greta abhors the deceit. Anxious for her family’s safety in a perilous time, she is nevertheless determined to put things right.

Oliver Doerger is living a lie of his own. Acting as valet for his aristocratic half brother, Oliver thwarts an attempt on Greta’s life and is overwhelmed by the forbidden passion that flares between them. Although he’s not truly a servant, he is a bastard and a spy–certainly no match for a woman of such exquisite quality.

Though both fear discovery, they cannot resist each other. When the truth comes out, and the city falls into chaos, Greta and Oliver will be forced to choose: love or duty?

Rarely in publishing does an author’s original title make it all the way through from idea to release day. The demands of marketing and the preferences of editors–even advice from art departments–can necessitate a change. For that reason, I try not to get too attached to the titles I settle on while drafting a manuscript.

But Portrait of Seduction was a little different.

Not only did I keep the title, but the title inspired the book.

Last year in June, when my Austrian-set tale of passion and music, Song of Seduction, helped launch Carina Press, I was already thinking about the possibility of a sequel for enigmatic, reliable Oliver Doerger. Oliver was ostensibly a footman for a the hero’s noble patron, but he also wore military boots and handled tricky situations with unusual aplomb. Oh, and he was that same nobleman’s half-brother. Hmm….

Of course he needed his own happy ending!

The title clicked almost instantly. Song meant music. Easy enough. And I suspected that Oliver’s lady love would an artist–more specifically, an art forger. During the Napoleonic Wars, art forgers were in high demand as wealthy households tried to maintain the dignity of their previous decor while protecting valued treasures from Bonaparte’s armies. Thus, Portrait of Seduction happened in one of those instant kismet moments when tiny pieces of ideas come together in one big explosion.

And the strangest thing? Not only did the title inspire the book, but it stayed the same throughout its entire journey to publication. Unusual! But then again, any romance set in Austria could be classified as unusual! I hope you’ll take a sweeping, exciting, romantic, trip to Napoleonic Austria with me as we watch young Oliver blossom into a fantastic hero–one who is calm yet strong, highly skilled yet modest, and fully in command of his base desires. That is, until one particular woman grabs his heart and won’t let go…just as the city of Salzburg falls.

PS — If you haven’t read Song of Seduction yet, no worries! To help get you started on Oliver’s journey, Carina Press is selling Song of Seduction for just $.99, now through the end of May. Don’t miss out!

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Born in California and raised in the Midwest, Carrie Lofty met her English husband while studying abroad–the best souvenir! Since completing her master’s degree in history, she has been devoted to raising their two precocious daughters and writing full time. Her latest historical romance, Portrait of Seduction, is available now. Later this year watch for her new Victorian series from Pocket, as well as her “Dark Age Dawning” romance trilogy from Berkley, co-written with Ann Aguirre under the name Ellen Connor. “Historical romance needs more risk-takers like Lofty.” ~ Wendy the Super Librarian

Loving a Music Man

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One of my favorite parts of bringing SONG OF SEDUCTION to life was writing scenes that involved music. I find male musicians incredibly sexy as they pour their passion into every note. Capturing that larger-than-life wonder was an incredible challenge! But rather than rattle on about craft, I thought I’d keep it simple and share an excerpt. In this scene Mathilda Heidel attends a piano-playing competition where her music teacher and idol, the famous Dutch composer Arie de Voss, is preparing to play…

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Mathilda did not have the heart to try and find romantic intrigue within every stray glance. She was not asking to love Arie de Voss; she simply wanted to believe in him. He made that task maddeningly difficult. And Ingrid was right–goodness, his hair. Did the man even own a mirror? Although impeccably dressed in that same black suit, his hair remained a tousled fright of nervous energy.

The man named Wölfl concluded his performance with a repulsively ornate flourish of scales and ornamentations, winning the affection of the crowd despite his lack of finesse. Arie stood poised at the edge of the stage, his face an impassive mask of concentration. Absentmindedly, he picked at the fine lace trim poking out of a coat sleeve, his blue gaze turned inward. Mathilda could almost see his mind working, dissecting his rival’s uninspired improvisation. Although motionless and unassuming, he was hard at work.

Ingrid caught her eye. “Do we have our winner?”

Mathilda could not answer. If Arie proved the musician–the man–she had believed him to be, she would gladly foretell his triumph like an oracle. But certainty escaped her.

“Wait and see,” she whispered.

With the gravity of a condemned man to the scaffolds, Arie took the stage and settled on the bench. Then he turned the scrap of paper upside down.

“What’s he doing?” Ingrid voiced the question shooting through countless minds.

Into the hushed anticipation, Mathilda answered with an inarticulate, gleeful sound. She understood his intention immediately. Her solitary laugh drew stares from faces near and far.

Arie’s included.

Across the expanse of humanity separating their bodies, he grinned. She became his conspirator.

Upside-down, that scribbled motif stood backward and flipped on its staff, with soprano notes sinking down and the low notes rising high. He intended to violate the spirit of the competition’s rules but not the letter.

They regarded each other in a wordless exchange. Yearning and admiration seared Mathilda’s lungs, as if she were breathing in the midst of a bonfire. She wanted to hold fast to time and freeze that instant of understanding and terror, of resignation and joy. The moment she devoted herself to him. The moment she knew him.

Half of the continent believed him a smug, haughty fool, while the other half thought him disagreeable and ill-humored. A recluse. An uncivil renegade. Mathilda knew differently. He was a lonesome and unfathomably apprehensive man with a sense of humor so well hidden that it was as good as invisible. She laughed because she understood the playful, subtle boastfulness of his game. He smiled as if in recognition of the one soul who saw him–insecurities, temper, disheveled hair and all.

She blinked. And he began.

Which musicians do you find most appealing? Are you like me in that rather ordinary guys can be transformed into drool-worthy heroes with the right musical skill?

Born in California, raised in the Midwest, Carrie Lofty met her husband in England–the best souvenir! Since earning her master’s degree in history, she’s been devoted to raising their two precocious daughters, wrangling the talented authors of Unusual Historicals, and writing romance. You can find her on Twitter, her Facebook fan page, and very occasionally on her blog. “Lofty…[writes] intelligent romance, and she treats the reader as if the reader is intelligent as well.” ~ Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

**Reminder: Commenting on an author’s blog entry/entries for the day will enter you to win a digital copy of their Carina Press title. One winner daily. Commenting on any of the Countdown entries will enter you into the big giveaway for a Carina Press promo prize pack. One winner at end of Countdown.**

Austria? Yes, Austria!

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I never meant to make it so difficult on myself. Honest. I never sat down at my trusty keyboard and thought, “Where can I set SONG OF SEDUCTION so as to create the most angst for me when trying to find it a good home?”

No, I was inspired. But silly me, I was less inspired by current trends in the historical romance market than by the epic music movies Amadeus and Immortal Beloved. I wanted guts and drama and exotic locales! So I just wrote.

Call it a fool’s errand or “the book of my heart,” but Song of Seduction has been my baby for many years. It made the rounds at all the major houses, always meeting the same fate: refrains of “We love it, but…Austria?

Oh, would it ever find a publisher who believed in it as much as I did? Or would I have to set it in England just to wedge my foot in the door?

Rather than make changes, I put it away. I published two medieval romances, WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS and SCOUNDREL’S KISS, always in the hopes that one day I’d be able to drag my sensual Napoleonic tale out from under the bed.

And then came Carina Press, “Where no great story goes untold.” Really? Could it be…?

Yes, indeed. Not only did Carina embrace my Austrian-set romance, but my editor, Deborah Nemeth, made it an even better book. She helped me look at it more objectively, more critically–and with wonderful results. Now the official release date for the book about which I’ve been most patient, stubborn and hopeful is almost here.

As writers, have you attempted the impossible and succeeded? What are you still working on with high hopes? As readers, are you ready to journey with me to Austria?

Born in California, raised in the Midwest, Carrie Lofty met her husband in England–the best souvenir! Since earning her master’s degree in history, she’s been devoted to raising their two precocious daughters, wrangling the talented authors of Unusual Historicals, and writing romance. You can find her on Twitter, her Facebook fan page, and very occasionally on her blog. “Lofty writes adventure romance like a born bard of old” ~ RT Book Reviews

**Reminder: Commenting on an author’s blog entry/entries for the day will enter you to win a digital copy of their Carina Press title. One winner daily. Commenting on any of the Countdown entries will enter you into the big giveaway for a Carina Press promo prize pack. One winner at end of Countdown.**

Thirty-Seven Years

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Not only is today Cinco de Mayo, when most Americans converge on bars to drink Coronas and tequila without really knowing why, it’s also my parents’ thirty-seven year wedding anniversary. The inspiration of real-life love affairs cannot be underestimated. After all without such wonderful true stories, the process of convincing readers of our fictional happily-ever-afters would be even more daunting!

My parents met in the Marine Corps as the Vietnam War was nearing its conclusion. Mom was one of fifty women on a base of nearly 3,000 men in San Diego’s El Torro Air Force Base. They worked together in the weather office and bonded over a bad science fiction movie at a New Year’s Eve party. Years later I grew up hearing stories about how hard-up Marines would ask Mom out…while Dad was standing right beside her!

From California to the Midwest and a few dozen stops in between, my parents have been a constant source of inspiration–not only because of their enduring marriage and the strength of our family, but because of their work ethic and determination. But that work ethic had me a little worried when I first started writing romance toward publication. What would they think of my pursuit? Would they believe it foolish or a waste of time and money? Would they disapprove of the books I wrote?

When I attended my first RWA National conference in the summer of 2007, I was a nervous wreck. But my husband talked me down a few times…and then I spoke to my mom. She told me how proud she was of the chance I was taking. That was more than enough to light a fire under my rear and get to work–just after I dried my tears.

My dad has been particularly interested in the success of SONG OF SEDUCTION, my June launch with Carina, because the cover doesn’t feature nekkid gym monkeys. Instead it features a woman whose jaw line and dark hair remind me of my mom when she was a young woman.

Currently Dad is reading my debut novel, a medieval romance called WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS, and offered a nice compliment. He said that the sex scenes weren’t too smutty and the characterization is good. I think this is the first time that either of them has attempted to read my work, but that’s fine by me. Their support–not only now as I continue to work hard at my career, but throughout my life when goals sometimes changed with the seasons–is a constant that I often take for granted.

So on this Cinco de Mayo, I won’t be toasting to commemorate the Mexican army’s surprise victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla–you all knew that, right?–but to my parents and their continued health and happiness.

Who in your life supports you most ardently, sometimes even in ways that surprise you? And what couple in your life has lived a special romance? I’d love to hear!

Born in California, raised in the Midwest, Carrie Lofty met her husband in England–the best souvenir! Since earning her master’s degree in history, she’s been devoted to raising their two precocious daughters, wrangling the talented authors of Unusual Historicals, and writing romance. You can find her on Twitter, her Facebook fan page, and very occasionally on her blog. “Historical romance needs more risk-takers like Lofty.” ~ Wendy the Super Librarian

**Reminder: Commenting on an author’s blog entry/entries for the day will enter you to win a digital copy of their Carina Press title. One winner daily. Commenting on any of the Countdown entries will enter you into the big giveaway for a Carina Press promo prize pack. One winner at end of Countdown.**