I began desperately asking to read Anna Randol’s debut in the summer of 2010, when her editor told me that she’d recently acquired a fabulous book set in Regency-era Constantinople. “What?!” said I, “I want to read that! Now!”
Sadly, I don’t get everything I want, when I want it (much to my constant disbelief and dismay), and so I had to wait an AGE. Through the COLD WINTER of 2010 and DISMAL SPRING of 2011, and even through the summer of 2011, when the wait became much worse because I was TAUNTED with the AMAZING cover of this book. I mean, are you kidding me with that cover? It’s stunning!
But finally, in the autumn, I had the very great pleasure of reading A Secret in Her Kiss. Which was everything I had hoped it would be. Clever and unique and so perfectly Regency even as it was exotic and different and terrific. And, of course, I invited Anna to visit the Ballroom. And meet Lady B.
Lady B: “Miss MacLean? I thought you said you were bringing someone new this evening?”
Sarah, looking about: I did, Lady B. She’s here somewhere.
Lady B, sharply: “Well, shouldn’t she be here–here? After all, she has not been introduced.”
Sarah: I think she might be nervous.
Lady B, barking: “Whatever for?”
Sarah, dryly: I can’t imagine.
Lady B: “I don’t know what you’re implying.”
Sarah: She has to be close by. She wouldn’t disapp–
Anna peers out from behind a potted plant.
Sarah: Ah! Here she is! Lady B, may I–
Lady B: “You there, girl. We have not been introduced. Moreover, since it is my ball, I find such a situation rather havey-cavey. You aren’t Lady Plimpinton’s niece, are you? There are rather a lot of young ones in that family.”
Albert flutters over to perch on a branch. <squawk>Breeding rabbits!<squawk>
Sarah waves Anna out from her hiding place, whispering: “She can sense fear. Stay firm.”
Anna, quietly: Um…no. I am an authoress.
Lady B, loudly: “Another one? Dear me. And why are you whispering? I cannot hear you over the creaking in Lord Solten’s corsets.”
Anna, peering over to the other side of the room: I am avoiding someone.
Lady B: “I make it a point never to avoid anyone unless it is my third cousin Reginald, never could tolerate him. Straighten your spine. Stiffen your lip and stop hiding like a ninny.” (Gives Anna a good long look through her lorgnettes) “Now. Who exactly are you?”
Anna: (remembers her manners and bobs a quick, awkward curtsey) Miss Anna Randol, my lady. I am the author of A Secret in Her Kiss. It’s my debut.
Lady B: “And from whom are you hiding?”
Anna: My heroine, Miss Mari Sinclair.
Lady B: (follows her gaze) “Why would an authoress hide from her own—Good gracious. What is that woman wearing?”
Anna: She’s wearing a traditional Turkish caftan. She prefers it to English gowns. I think it’s the trousers underneath.
Lady B: “Indeed. She does not appear at all comfortable. Indeed, she appears irate?” She turns to Sarah: “Miss MacLean, why is it that you are always bringing strange creatures to my balls?”
Sarah: “I find it rather difficult to control myself.”
Lady B: “I think it’s time you try.” She turns back to Anna. “What is the girl’s problem.”
Anna: Well, Mari may be a bit upset that I accepted Sarah’s invitation without her permission. Mari had no desire to leave Constantinople. She was kind of in the middle of a mission for the British government. She hides pictures of Ottoman forts in her drawings. It’s essential to gaining Greek independence she tells me.
Lady B: “She lives in Constantinople? Once again, most unusual. Who are her people?”
<squawk> Istanbul is Constantinople! <squawk>
Lady B: “Really, Albert. You must stop squawking nonsense words. Have a lobster patty, darling.”
Anna: Her mother was a Greek rebel but her father is Sir Reginald Sinclair, an archeologist of some renown. I know it isn’t the usual setting for a historical romance, but Mari is not a usual heroine.
Lady B: “Sir Reginald! I spoke to him once about covering up the male forms on all that old pottery he brings back. Most… shocking… of course I only look at the legs, but who is to say others aren’t more… curious?”
Sarah: Who, indeed.
Lady B, scowls at Sarah, then returns her gaze to Mari: “But I must say, Miss Sinclair seems a little too annoyed. I would think she’d welcome a break from all the intrigue.”
Anna: (stares at her slippers) Well, there might be a certain gentleman we left behind in Constantinople. You see, the British were afraid Mari was going to stop working for them so they sent Major Bennett Prestwood to ensure she completes the drawings they needed. And while Mari resents him, he is a tall, blond, Adonis.
Lady B, perking up: “Nice legs?”
Anna: The nicest.
Lady B: “Not as nice as Lord B’s.”
Anna: Of course. I meant to say, the nicest outside of Lord B’s.
Sarah, aside: Nice save.
Anna: Thanks. Back to Lady B. Perhaps a bit weary from war, but did I mention he was secretly a poet? Not that he’d admit it, of course. I think it embarrasses him.
<squawk> Roses are red. Violets are blue. Ratafia is sweet and so are lobster patties!<squawk>
(The door to the ballroom flies open and a rugged army officer in a Rifleman’s dark green uniform strides in, the hard line of his jaw tense with worry.)
Lady B: “Your warrior poet, I presume.” (Pulls out fan as she surveys him.) “I would like to point out that he doesn’t look happy to be at my ball either.”
Anna: (shifts uncomfortably) Someone may be trying to kill Mari. It’s why she wanted to quit drawing. Bennett’s a bit overly protective. You should hear him talk about his sisters. (Bites her lip) Maybe I should have told him where we were going. He takes his orders to watch her very seriously. He puts duty above all else.
<squawk!> I’ll be watching you. <squawk>
Lady B, intrigued: “Is he going to shake Miss Sinclair or kiss her?”
Anna: Well…I’m not entirely sure. Things can get rather…heated between those two. Perhaps this would be a good time to take our leave. Mari doesn’t take orders well and Bennett can’t stop giving them. And Mari does have one final fort she has to draw despite the fact that the Ottomans may know her identity.
Lady B: “Perhaps your characters would be more pleasant at my balls if you were a little kinder to them. Keep that in mind for next time.”
Anna: They are happy by the end of the book. Does that count for something?
Lady B: “Perhaps—Oh, my…”
Sarah: “Well. That solves the kissing or shaking question.”