Invitation to Scandal - Regency Romance

Bronwen Evans
Invitation to Scandal - Regency Romance
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Publisher
Kensington Brava
Release Date
May 2012
ISBN
9780758259219
Series
Book 2 of Invitation To...
Genre
Historical Romance

SUMMARY
Catch Me If You Can

Plagued by scandalous rumors, Rheda Kerrich will stop at nothing to restore her reputation and make an honest living for herself—and she's determined to do it without a husband. But times are hard, and smuggling is a risky though profitable trade. So when a dashing agent for the English government catches her in the act, she desperately resists his charms and conceals her illicit profession. Until she realizes he may be the key to her ultimate freedom—and unbridled passion…

Rufus Knight, Viscount Strathmore, has never had trouble beguiling the ladies of Kent. When his search for "Dark Shadow," a cunningly elusive smuggler, leads him to alluring and headstrong Rhe, her objections to his amorous advances merely incite a tantalizing game of cat and mouse. Soon, they'll find the very secrets driving them apart could ensnare them in a love they can't escape…

Book Review by Rho (reviewer)
May 01, 2012   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
177 people found the following review helpful
INVITATION TO SCANDAL is historical romance at its best! Bronwen Evans writes a tale of love, betrayal, honor and strength, and it kept me riveted from beginning to end.

Rufus is out to clear his father's name and to rid his family of the shame they've had to endure since his father's death, but his plans take an unexpected turn while trying to find a smuggler who may hold the key to the information he needs. Instead of the criminal named "The Dark Shadow", he finds a hellion of a woman who beguiles him more than he cares to admit--especially since he knows she hiding something.

Rheda has dealt with scandal since her father died, but she's out to make a life for herself without having to be at the mercy of a man. So, when a rakish devil named Rufus comes sniffing around trying to find out more about her secret identity--"The Dark Shadow"--she's determined to stay away from him although her body heats at the sight of him like no other man. Can love bloom in the face of deeply guarded secrets?

INVITATION TO SCANDAL completely surprised me. I didn't know it from the first chapter, but I was soon entranced by Rufus and Rheda in such a way that I finished the book before I even realized it.

Rheda's character really resonated with me. She was left with a younger brother at the early age of 17 and she had to fend for the two of them. She may not have made the best choices, but she was strong, determined, and totally fierce. But underneath it all, there was a vulnerability to her that made me wish for someone to protect her as much as I respected her independence.

The chemistry between Rufus and Rheda was sizzling from the instant they meet. Rufus being the rake he was, was intrigued by a woman who would actually turn him down. So, that was fun to see. But it was obvious their relationship was an inevitability.

This romance was not all love and roses. The plot in this book was fantastic. Intermixed with the romance were secrets and deceit, treachery and betrayal. The story had twists and turns that had me continually changing my theories. But when the big reveal came, even I was shocked with how deep the villainy went.

Overall, INVITATION TO SCANDAL was a fantastically absorbing read. It had everything I could have asked and then gave me even more. The ending was a bit of a cliff-hanger, so I'm hoping to get more of these characters very soon!
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BOOK INTERVIEW on May 2012
Interview by Rho

Bronwen, it's so great to have you here to talk about your work, especially your latest novel, INVITATION TO SCANDAL.


Q: Where did you get the idea for INVITATION TO SCANDAL?

I actually got the idea from a Daniel Defoe poem I'd read, which he wrote in the 1700's about the town of Deal in Kent, and smuggling. I thought about why people were forced to resort to smuggling. Some of course did it to rule the town and be kingpin, but most engaged in illegal activities simply to survive.

I'm quite an independent person and I immediately saw a plot where a woman, who could not work due to her standing in Society, could use smuggling as a way to help her family and her village. Rheda Kerrich popped into my head and that was that. Rheda's a realist. She understands that sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty to help those around you.

Q: INVITATION TO SCANDAL truly transported me to 1800's England. What type of research went into building this amazing world you created?

Even though I'm a Kiwi (New Zealander) born and bred, I had lived in England for a number of years. I knew Kent pretty well, and I loved the romance of the rugged coast line and how close it really is to France. But I did extensive research on smuggling for Invitation to Scandal and slavery for Invitation to Ruin. Thankfully with the internet, finding research is not difficult. Most organisations are quite happy to help you once you explain you're an author and need information for your book.

As to the Regency period in general, I love reading Regency romance so I've learned a lot from other writers. In addition, I have non-fiction books on the Regency period that help me. The rest is all my imagination!

Q: I understand INVITATION TO SCANDAL is Book 2 of the Invitation To... series. Tell us about this series. Where did the inspiration for this series come from? What is the common thread that runs through all the books?

The series is about a group of four friends. The Craven twins, Anthony and Richard. Invitation to Ruin, book one, is Anthony's story, book three will be his twin brother, Richard's story. It seems to be the book everyone is longing to read!

Then there are the friends, Rufus Knight and Alexander Montford. INVITATION TO SCANDAL is Rufus's story. Book three, Invitation to Passion, due out at the beginning of 2013, is Richard Craven's story and his heroine is Madeline, Rufus's sister. Book four, Invitation to Love is Alex's story. [CLUE ELEVEN : VISCOUNT]

The theme running through the series is that each of the men have had something terrible happen to them in their youth that they're forced to face in adulthood. The heroine in each book is the catalyst for their emotional journey. That means that each of my heroines have to be pretty special. They have to be intelligent and strong woman who are risk takers.

Q: I absolutely loved Rufus and Rheda together. Boy, did they create sparks! What makes them so perfect for each other?

Aren't they perfect as a couple? A lot of people told me I couldn't have a hero named Rufus, and especially if the heroine's name also began with an R – Rheda. But as soon as my editor, the lovely Megan Records, read the book she thought the names perfect. Her words on Rufus were – he's delicious!

I think they are perfect for one another because they complement each other's strengths and support each other's weaknesses. They are good together, and one really does complete the other.

Rheda takes life and tries to mould it, conquer it and live the life she desires. She can take it a little too far at times, and that's when Rufus steps in to counter the wildness in her. Rufus on the other hand cares too much about what others think and duty, to the point where he forgets that life is to be lived, to be enjoyed, to be savoured. Rheda's free spirit reminds him that you're a long time dead.

Q: I really thought that Rheda was one of the strongest heroines I've read about in a very long time. Considering the times in which INVITATION TO SCANDAL was set, how were you able to blend that strength with her surprising innocence?

I think it was Rheda who forced herself to remain innocent on a certain level. Her father was a pig of a man, and yet she did not let the world she'd been brought up in destroy her faith in other people, or in love. She is a surprising mixture of toughness and compassion. She has a very hard outer shell but inside she's marshmallow.

Q: Rufus would tick me off one minute and make me swoon the next. LOL The man drove me crazy, but I loved every minute of it. Please give us some insight into his character that will help us understand him better.

Rufus is a man caught in the middle. On the one hand he desperately wants to be honourable. He follows the rules, and therefore he lives in a world of black and white, right or wrong. He works for the Government in order to make up for the disgrace his father's alleged treason brought down upon the family. He has a mother and sister who have been shunned and he means to restore the Strathmore good name. But he sacrifices bits of himself in order to comply. He has to suppress his true nature and ‘play act' for Society. He sacrifices his own needs in order to help his family, but gets lost in the process. That is what attracts him to Rheda. She risks everything to help her family and doesn't care what others think. Rheda lives on the edge of grey. With Rheda he is forced to make a decision. What's more important—love or honour—sometimes you can't have both!

Q: One of my favorite scenes in INVITATION TO SCANDAL was when Rufus helped Rheda with her mare, White Lily, when the horse seemed to be very sick. The scene touched me because I really felt like the tide turned in their relationship when Rufus helped Rheda purely because she needed help, not to get anything from her. What is your favorite scene, and why? Please share it with us.

My favourite scene is when Rheda sets the seduction bath scene in order to try and put Rufus off her brother's scent. She knows the risk she takes and puts her faith in Rufus's honour. She didn't quite get the outcome she was counting on!

Here it is. Enjoy!

Rheda steeled herself against his dark insolent beauty and snapped, "Lord Strathmore, what is the meaning of this intrusion? I am bathing. Kindly remove yourself, sir, or with one scream I'll summon help and have you removed."

Cold and arrogant, Viscount Strathmore raised a sardonic brow. "Not a very convincing performance, Miss Kerrich. The only help a scream will likely summon is my men, and I'm sure they'd love to witness Miss Rheda Kerrich in all her natural beauty."

He moved farther into her bedchamber with surprising grace for a man thrumming with tension, then stood before the fireplace, surveying her with a cool, raking glance.

Rheda shivered under his slow, deliberate stare; he made her feel tarnished, unworthy, but she lifted her chin and studied him with the same cool insolence as he was giving her.

He was worth the attention. His hair that had flowed freely over his shoulders in the ballroom just hours earlier was now plastered to his head; water dripped onto his collar below. The threads of copper that ran through the rich, chocolate-colored hair glinted in the firelight, flashing danger.

"I won't ask again." The timbre of his voice, low and cultured, flowed like velvet but with an edge of steel. "Where is your brother?"

Rheda felt herself flush, but she kept her gaze steady, gesturing with one wet arm, around the room. "You can see my chamber is empty. I have no idea where he is." She paused, raised an eyebrow, and continued, "Do you think he's hiding in the bathwater?"

As soon as the rash words were out of her mouth she wished she could take them back, for he moved deliberately toward her until he stood towering over her at the tub's edge. His scathing perusal swept the water, searching its dark depths before moving over her half-exposed breasts and up farther until their eyes met.

"You do not even seem surprised I am looking for him. Why is that, I wonder?" His questions held an edge of wryness.

Rheda dreaded having to respond. Whatever she said would only deepen the trap he was setting for her. Feigning indignation, she countered, "I am flustered, my lord. I have never before had a gentleman barge into my chamber while I was bathing."

He dropped to a crouch next to the tub, his black breeches pulling tight across the powerful muscles of his thighs. With elbows resting on the tub, he leaned his chin on clasped hands. "Ah, but then my beautiful Rheda, earlier tonight you didn't want me to be a gentleman."

She swallowed, her traitorous body reacting to his husky murmur, the scent of sandalwood and masculinity surrounding him.

The wicked rogue slowly reached out and with one finger traced a droplet of water from her right shoulder diagonally across her exposed breasts until his finger rested on her now hardened left nipple hidden just below the waterline.

Her breath quickened. She desperately tried to ignore his touch, but her body grew hot with desire at the feel of his finger slowly circling her aureole. His smile widened at her body's obvious response.

His head turned and his seductive smile froze. Straightening, he moved to the corner of the room. A towel lay crumpled there, a scarlet stain visible on one small corner.

Rheda's stomach knotted.

He swiveled to face her, no amusement or softness in his steely gaze. He stepped closer, grim anger scoring his mouth, but then he visibly repressed it. "Not seen him? Then where did this blood come from? I know I wounded him. If you are cut, show me. He has been here, hasn't he? Where are you hiding him?"

"You misunderstand, my lord." Rheda lowered her head, allowing her embarrassment to flame into her cheeks. "It's my blood. My monthly courses have just started."

Men, she knew, did not discuss such topics. She held her breath, hoping that would unsettle him. But his next statement made her choke on her own words.

"Stand up. We'll see how truthful you are."

Her head came up. "I beg your pardon?"

"I said stand up. If what you say is true it shouldn't take long for the evidence to appear."

Rheda's fear was replaced with sparks of anger. Her teeth set and her voice changed. All pretense of softness and femininity gone. She snapped, "How dare you? Get out of my chambers, now!"

With arms folded across his chest, he commanded, "Either stand up or I will call my men to help you out of the tub. Your choice."

Rheda closed her eyes, feeling a spell of dizziness. Lord Strathmore had her trapped by her own lies. She chewed her bottom lip, trying to decide what to do. She had to delay the excise men as long as possible. Long enough for Daniel to escape. Lifting her head, she squared her shoulders and, with great dignity, complied. She gracefully stood up, naked, proud and tall in the tub, water streaming down over her curves.

There was a bleak satisfaction at the reaction her emergence from the water provoked. Longing flared across the finely chiseled features.

He swore softly under his breath before flashing a mocking smile. "Rheda means goddess in ancient Anglo-Saxon—did you know that? You are aptly named, for you truly are a goddess among women."

Q: Whew! What an excerpt! Your book villain (well, the main one anyway) really surprised me with the extent of his treachery. You really created him well. What do you think makes a really good literary villain, and why?

I think you have to be realistic to the period. What do I mean by that? Well, in the 1800's with limited ‘police' etc nobility could, in all reality, get away with murder. So you have to make the villain as real as he would have been in the time period. I love making my villains really evil, it makes my hero look good!

Q: I am hoping that due to the way INVITATION TO SCANDAL ended, we have not seen the end of these characters. Please give us any sneak peak into what is up next for the characters in this world.

I can't wait to release book three, Invitation to Passion. I wanted to bring Rufus's sister Madeline into the story because she's such a great character. She too has been shaped by her upbringing. She had a lonely childhood, hidden from Society's scorn at their country estate. She is the perfect foil for Richard's driving need to help others. He takes in all sorts of strays because he is filled with guilt that he could do nothing to help his twin brother when they were children (read Invitation to Ruin to see why).

Madeline counts Richard as her only true friend. He rescued her from the neighbouring bullies when she was thirteen and she adores the angelic rake. They have a strong friendship, and now that Maddy is nineteen, her feelings for the handsome and debonair Richard, are becoming confused. Then a scandalous event drastically changes both their lives and they are forced to wed. The road from friends to lovers is rocky and unfortunately, Rufus's enemy, villain two in Invitation to Scandal, is set on using Madeline to destroy Rufus's happy world.

Q: What is it about Historical Romance that draws you to the genre?

Hmmm... I love the period. In reality it probably was not a romantic time to live, but the dresses, the clothes, the houses, the men....alpha males! I think the arrogance, warring with compassion, that the heroes in historical novels have, is thrilling. I love that a man with so much power and control can be saved by the love of a woman.

Q: What's up next in this series?

I'm busy finishing both Richard's and Alex's stories and hope to bring you both of those in 2013.

Q: What other projects do you have that you'd like to tell us about?

Gosh, I have a lot on the go at the moment. I have three, Wicked Wagers Regency novella's (39,000 words each) that I'm working on. To Dare the Duke of Dangerfield, book one in the trilogy, hit #3 on Amazon's Books Regency Best–Sellers list. To Wager the Marquis of Wolverstone has just been released on 1 May 2012, and To Challenge the Earl of Cravenswood is due out in late July.

I also have a new 6 book Regency series underway, called The Disgraced Lords. A group of six friends called the Libertine Scholars. Each hero has to flee England for various reasons and they band together to ascertain who is out to destroy them.

On top of that, I've just sold a contemporary romance to Entangled Publishing. The Reluctant Wife, due out fall 2012. A bit of a departure for me but then again, the story has a hero who is definitely an alpha male – an Italian Conte.

Thanks for having me guest blog today. I've a copy of INVITATION TO SCANDAL in book or ebook for one lucky commenter who can tell me, the name of Rheda's brother (read the expert on my website.)

ALSO – join my INVITATION TO ROMANCE Blog Tour 27th – 30th June

Beginning April 27th, Bron will be traveling throughout the blogosphere telling people about her newest book, INVITATION TO SCANDAL. At most places she'll be giving away a copy of INVITATION TO SCANDAL to a random commenter (open to US and international residents). If you win and read the book, she'd love to hear what you think OR even better leave a review somewhere!


The Book Tour Grand Prize – A $200 Amazon, or B&N, Voucher PLUS…A Book Basket of 30 ‘SIGNED by the AUTHORS' books…

There will be one WORD hidden in each blog post [WHO] in brackets (the word 'WHO' is the first clue). There are 30 words altogether. These words will spell a paragraph related to Bron's 1 May release INVITATION TO SCANDAL.



Wow, sounds like an awesome contest! Bronwen, thank you so much for chatting with us! I enjoyed your answers and look forward to reading more of your work!


Bio:


Bronwen loves story-telling – gobbling up movies, reading books and attending the theatre. Her head is always filled with characters and stories, particularly lovers in angst. Is it any wonder she's a proud romance writer?

Bronwen attended Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand earning a bachelor's degree in Commerce and Administration, majoring in Marketing and Accounting. She was all set on building herself a business career (which she did along the way).

But life never turns out exactly as one thinks. After working for a few years in marketing roles within New Zealand financial institutions, she left for a 6 month overseas experience in London, England. She loved England. She spent several years living in London, using it as a base to be able to work and travel from. She visited all four corners of the world. Her most interesting trips were a camel safari in the Sahara, a trip through Russia, a safari through Africa with her mother, and three months in the Mediterranean.

It was while living and working in London she discovered the offices of Mills & Boon and the germ of an idea to embark on a romance writing career was born.

Almost eight years later, on her return to New Zealand, encouraged by a close friend battling a deliberating illness, Bronwen finally started down the path to publication by joining RWA, The Beau Monde, RWAustralia and RWNZ.

Bronwen's first manuscript, INVITATION TO RUIN, was completed late 2009, and was sold by her agent, Melissa Jeglinski, of The Knight Agency, to Kensington Publishing early 2010, in a two book deal. Her debut novel, INVITATION TO RUIN, received a 4.5 star rating from RT Book Reviews and has been nominated in the RT Reviewer's Choice awards – Best First Historical. Invitation to Ruin was also well received in Publishers Weekly - Evans's debut Regency is filled with sizzling romance... Strong characterizations, smooth plotting, and plenty of explicit sex will appeal to fans of modern Regencies.


Website: http://www.bronwenevans.com
Blog: http://www.bronwenevans.com/bronwen-blog.html
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/bronwenevansauthor
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/authorbevans


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GIVEAWAYS!!!

Bronwen Evans is giving away 2 copies of INVITATION TO SCANDAL (winner's choice of print or ebook)! International! Thanks, Bronwen!

Mechanics:

Simply write a comment or ask a question in the comment box below to be entered into the giveaway!


ADDITIONAL GIVEAWAY!!!

For all Featured Book Interviews, TRR is sponsoring a prize!

Each comment you make in the following interviews:

Invitation to Scandal by Bronwen Evans
Delighting in Your Company by Blair McDowell
Becoming sage by Kasi Alexander
A Wild Night's Bride by Victoria Vane

give you one additional point EACH to win this prize:



LETHAL RIDER by Larissa Ione (paperback) – International winner!


Contest ends May 31.

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