I’ve arrived early to the Ballroom today to welcome a special guest. I’m expecting my dear friend Darcy Burke any moment. Darcy’s a new authoress on the Regency scene. She just released her first trilogy this summer, and I was lucky enough to read her most recent release, To Seduce a Scoundrel, early for a quote. I confess, I had to think long and hard about the proper quote, because I think my first message to Darcy after reading it was just a bunch of exclamation points and capslock crimes like LOVE!!! and SQUEEE!!! and HOT!!! (Actually, that might not look so bad on a book cover, hm? ”OMGLOVE!!!” ~Tessa Dare)
Anyhow. Suffice to say that To Seduce a Scoundrel grabbed me from the first scene and didn’t let go, and I’m very excited to give away a copy today.
More on that later, because Miss Burke is here! And she’s not alone. She’s accompanied by an exquisitely handsome man with dark hair and eyes that carry a glint of perpetual amusement. His build is impressively muscular, and he sports a somewhat crooked nose that surprisingly only adds to his allure.
I know at once that it’s Lord Ambrose Sevrin. Inside myself, I do a little dance of happiness. But I try to keep my outward cool. Right. Because that always works.
Tessa: Darcy, it’s so very good to see you. Very good!
Darcy: Thanks for the invitation. Where is everyone? Lady B?
Tessa: Oh, never mind them. I’m so glad you’ve brought Sevrin with you. I have…questions…for you, my lord. So many, many… (He leans close now, and I’m losing it.) Questions. Yes. My lord, your reputation precedes you. I’ve heard you’re good with your hands. In a fight, I mean. You’re an expert on pugilism, are you not?
Sevrin: Depends on what you mean by “expert.” I’m no longer welcome at Jackson’s. (He arches his brow in a most provocative fashion. siiiigh.) but I keep myself rather fit with my own private fighting club.
Tessa: Oh, my. How…delicio–. Er, daring. I wonder if you might be of some help to me. You see, my friend Susanna Finch operates a ladies’ retreat in the coastal village of Spindle Cove. They’ve long included shooting as one of their weekly activities, but I’m thinking the ladies might like to add pugilism.
Sevrin: Pugilism for ladies? Why on earth would they want to hit each other?
Tessa: Maybe not pugilism so much as … self-defense. It’s a handy skill, don’t you think, for any lady to know how to extricate herself from a dangerous situation? (This sounds almost plausible! I’m so pleased with myself.)
Sevrin: (Quiet for a moment, perhaps considering…) The idea has merit. Indeed, I can think of a time or two a woman of my acquaintance may have needed to fend for herself. Let’s see, how would this sort of instruction work? You’re thinking of an occasion upon which a lady might be attacked?
Tessa: Yes, exactly that. Perhaps Miss Burke would not mind loaning you out for a demonstration?
Darcy waves her hand, all generosity. She is such a good friend.
Tessa, a bit nervous: You’re not speaking from experience, are you, my lord?
Sevrin swoops up behind me, shockingly close to my ear: I’m certain you’re aware of my reputation, my dear lady, and my crimes are several, but I haven’t yet stooped to assault.
Tessa, breathless: My apologies, my lord.
Sevrin: Now, if I were a criminal of the worst sort and meant to harm your person, I might come up behind you and grab you around the waist. I don’t recommend you engage your assailant in a pugilistic bout, however.
Tessa: No? Then however am I to protect myself?
Sevrin: Ladies’ boots and shoes have heels for a reason, I think. The instep of a man’s foot is a rather good target for that heel. If you raise your foot up and stomp down on your attacker thus, I should think that would do the trick.
Tessa: But what if I miss?
Sevrin lowers his voice to a seductive tone. Or maybe that’s just my overworked imagination. Let’s go with “authorial license.”
Sevrin: You won’t miss. Nevertheless, I should think a two-pronged attack is the best course of action. While he’s in agony from strike one, you’ll turn in his grasp and go straight for his eyes. It’s a bit messy, but do try to dig your thumbs into the sockets.
Tessa: Er, good heavens.
Sevrin: Shall we give it a go?
Tessa: You don’t really want me to gouge your eyes out? They’re such intriguing eyes. You know, with that perpetual glint of amusement and all.
Sevrin, eyes glinting away: What do you think?
Tessa (lowing her own voice to a sultry tone, thanks to the magic of authorial license): I’ll try not to hurt you.
Sevrin: Here I go.
His arms come around me, and he hauls me back against his chest. For a dreamy moment, I can’t quite remember where I am. Oh yes, a self-defense lesson in the middle of Lady B’s ballroom. What was I supposed to do? Step on his foot. I manage to strike a minor blow to his foot and then I turn in his arms. I raise my hand—
A loud, tropical squawk of alarm rings through the Ballroom, followed by a booming voice:
What sort of knavery is this? Unhand that lady, this instant.
Tessa, cringing: Uh-oh.
Sevrin releases me just in time to fend off a swooping, black-feathered attack from the air. Moments later, he’s driven halfway across the Ballroom by a charging aristocrat in a well-tailored suit.
Fists are flying. Feathers are flying. It’s mayhem.
Tessa: Oh, dear. That’s Montague, Lady B’s prodigal nephew, recently returned from India. And Harold, his, er, attack toucan. Monty’s face is bruised because there was an Accident. Or an Incident.
Darcy: I can imagine. He’s certainly ready for a fight.
Tessa: From what I understand, he’s a dangerous mix of good intentions and poor timing.
Darcy: I do believe Sevrin will pulverize him. He was a prizefighter, you know. Could have been the champion.
As if to punctuate Miss Burke’s commentary, Sevrin lands a ferocious punch. We ladies wince.
Tessa: And here I was so hoping we’d finally see what Monty looked like beneath the bruises. It’s going to be a few more days, I guess.
Darcy: Or weeks.
Sevrin: You’re outmatched. Give over, bird-man.
Monty: My future title is pronounced “Batman.” And I’ll never surrender, you Maligner of Innocents!
Darcy and I exchange looks. Surely he wasn’t referring to us as Innocents?
Sevrin continues his attack and Monty puts up a good defense. They crash into one of Lady B’s large potted palms.
Tessa: Shall we explain the misunderstanding and break them up? Or merely suggest they remove their shirts?
Darcy: Oh, the latter most definitely. But perhaps we should save Lady B’s potted plants?
Tessa: Indeed. Gentlemen! Gentlemen, please! Monty, Lord Sevrin was merely teaching me defensive techniques. He’s a pugilist.
The men roll to a stop on the parquet floor. Lord Sevrin jumps to his feet.
Monty: A demonstration, you say?
Sevrin, straightening his coat: You didn’t actually think I was accosting Miss Dare whilst Miss Burke simply looked on? (He offers a hand to Monty and helps him up.) Perhaps you’d like to audition for my fighting club. You could use the practice. Men try out most nights in the Black Horse Court off the Haymarket.
Monty: Audition? For a fighting club? How intriguing.
Sevrin: I warn you, it’s mostly working-class blokes. The only gentlemen are Lord Saxton and myself, and I’m not certain I qualify.
Monty: Sounds perfect.
Tessa, mournfully surveying the destruction: I’m going to be in so much trouble with Lady B. And there’ll be no end to Monty’s bruises. Will we never see the reportedly handsome features beneath them?
Darcy: But I do love a good fight, don’t you? Especially in the defense of a lady.
Your turn, dear readers! To Seduce a Scoundrel begins with sexy Lord Sevrin rescuing heroine Philippa from a most dangerous and potentially scandalous situation. What’s your favorite romantic rescue scene in books, movies, TV? Have you ever been the real-life damsel in distress?
One commenter will win a copy of To Seduce a Scoundrel (print or digital, winner’s choice)!
My thanks to Darcy Burke for visiting The Ballroom today and choreographing such a delicious demonstration. :)