A Lady of Integrity: Excerpt #2

Continued from my post of December 4 … the second half of Chapter 1 …

“I hope Claude is all right.” Lizzie looked up from the crossword. “He’s still in Venice, you know, so I wrote after we heard from Alice. All I got back was a postcard from that big exhibition they’re all attending. He sounded his usual self … though there’s not much room to say much else than ‘Having a grand rumble’ on those little bits of cardboard. The picture was lovely, though.”

“I’m glad he is out of France for the time being, at any rate, and unlikely to be used any further as a means of blackmail,” Andrew said. “It has been a number of weeks, and yet I am still wondering if it is safe to assume that Gerald Meriwether-Astor perished in the Channel when Maggie scuttled his great undersea dirigible.”

Maggie abandoned the crossword altogether and stood in front of the fire, as though she had suddenly become chilled. “I hope so,” she said fiercely. “I hope he got exactly what he deserved for trying to mount an invasion and make himself a king–killing all those poor bathynauts in the process.”

“Maggie,” Claire said softly. “Do not make yourself distressed. You have just managed to sleep through the night without nightmares, and neither Polgarth nor I wish you to lose the ground you have gained.”

At the mention of her grandfather’s name, some of the tension eased out of Maggie’s lovely young face. “Must I go back to Bavaria?” she pleaded, flinging herself on the rug at Claire’s feet. “Can’t I go down to Gwynn Place and stay with him and Michael and my aunts while you and Lizzie are gone?”

“And not finish your education?” Lewis looked up from his spreads in astonishment. “If I had half your advantages, Mags, you can bet I wouldn’t be throwing them away.”

“You’ve done pretty well for yourself under your own steam, I’d say,” Snouts told him, “but it’s different for girls. Don’t you think about quitting, Mags,” he told her, a hint of their old gang leader’s authority flashing through the façade of the fashionable young businessman. “We see a job through, and always have, isn’t that right?”

Claire fought the temptation to marshal her arguments, and let the boys do the job she hadn’t exactly been prepared for. Was this how Maggie really felt? That she didn’t want to finish her studies and graduate? The prospect horrified Claire–but at the same time, Maggie had always been of a gentler persuasion than her cousin Lizzie, more inclined to value home and hearth than either Lizzie or Claire herself.

Not that Claire didn’t value her home. She did, deeply–both here at Carrick House in Belgravia, and the little cottage in Vauxhall Gardens where they had created their first refuge. But her deep-seated need to secure her own engineering degree had driven her actions since the age of fifteen–and led her into such adventures that she had been changed forever.

She passed an affectionate hand over Maggie’s hair–put up now that she was a young lady, and her hems lowered in equal measure. “I will not say whether you must go or not,” she told her. “But I would be saddened indeed if all your work were left unfinished and you did not get the credit for it.”

“You can’t stay here,” Lizzie said firmly. “What would I do with myself all alone at school?”

“Become better friends with the other girls?” Maggie suggested.

“I’m as friendly with them as I intend to be.”

“Wait about for Tigg to get leave?”

“Oh, yes,” Lizzie nodded. “I shall run to meet the post every single day and weep all night when there’s no letter.” Her mouth pursed up in disdain at such missish behavior. “Tigg would wash his hands of me if I did such things. No, Mags. You’re coming back with me and that’s that. Nothing is going to hurt either of us, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“I never said so.” Maggie traced the rose design in the carpet by her knee with one finger.

“But I know you. You like things peaceful-like. The thing is, trouble found you as easily in Cornwall as it did me in the Cotswolds and the Lady in the Canadas. We can’t hide from adventures–they find us whether we want them to or not.”

“They don’t seem to find me,” Lewis pointed out, clearly somewhat disappointed.

“Give them time,” Andrew advised him.

Since in her mind the matter was closed, Lizzie returned to the crossword. “What’s a nine-letter word for ‘young lady of marriageable age’?”

“Elizabeth,” teased Snouts.

Lizzie swiped the box of toothpicks and threw it at him. Since she very rarely missed, Snouts exclaimed in chagrin and returned it to the mantel where it belonged, rubbing his shoulder.

“Lizzie, really, where are your manners?” Claire wondered aloud.

Debutante, you gumpy,” Maggie told her cousin. “Even Willie might have got that one.”

Happily, Lizzie filled in the last space and closed the paper. “Speaking of Willie, has the invitation come for his birthday party? It’s bound to be a–”

Someone pounded on the street door, sounding as though they meant the lion’s-head knocker to break right through the panel.

“I’ll get it.” Snouts went out of the family parlour and into the hall, moving on the balls of his feet in a way that told the observant eye he believed trouble lurked even behind the laurel hedges and glossy iron railings of Belgravia.

Claire put her notebook aside and stood, Andrew beside her.

“Snouts,” they heard a familiar voice say, “is Claire here?”

“A pleasure to see you, too, Miss—”

“Oh, don’t give me that—your brother doesn’t have time. Is she here? And Mr. Malvern?”

“Aye, but—”

Claire started forward, but before she could even reach the door, a blond, disheveled wreck of a young woman fell through it, the tracks of tears cutting lines through the dirt on her face.

“Claire–Andrew–thank God,” Alice Chalmers said breathlessly, pulling the flight goggles off her unruly hair. “You’ve got to come with me to Venice and get Jake out of that underwater prison before he dies in there.”

*

 To be continued in A Lady of Integrity, coming at Christmas from your favorite retailer!

Camille Elliot—Interview with a Regency author

Camille ElliotI have prevailed upon one of my friends to be a guest today—Regency author Camille Elliot, who also writes Christian romantic suspense as Camy Tang. She grew up in Hawaii, where she started reading Regency romances when she was thirteen years old. She graduated from Stanford University in psychology with a focus on biology, and for nine years she worked as a biologist researcher. Now she is writing full time, using her original psychology degree as she creates the characters in her novels. In her free time, she’s a staff worker for her church youth group and leads one of her church’s Sunday worship teams. She also loves to knit Victorian and vintage patterns, spin wool into yarn, and is training to (very slowly) run a marathon.

Shelley: Camille, welcome to my blog! We talk about all kinds of things here, from airships to books to lightning rifles, but now and again the subject of costuming comes up. Oh very well, maybe it comes up quite often. You’re a skilled maker and crafter—can you tell us a little more about what you do when you’re not writing books?

Camille: I absolutely love knitting. I actually knit when I’m writing–I’ll knit something easy while I’m thinking about what to write next, and then drop my knitting in my lap when I start typing. When I’m stuck again, I’ll pick the knitting up again. I learned to knit from my mom, but completely forgot when I grew up, so I relearned using online videos. Very useful for someone who needs to hit the repeat button over and over and over again!

Lately I’ve been very into antique (1800s) knitting patterns and also vintage patterns from the 1930s and 1940s. I recently knit my hero’s scarf from my Regency, The Spinster’s Christmas, from a pattern published in 1837 (but probably in use in the Regency era since most patterns were used long before they were printed). It was really fun! I felt a bit like Jane Austen–well, if Jane Austen ever knit. :)

Prelude For A Lord by Camille ElliotShelley: Your latest release is called Prelude for a Lord and has the prettiest cover I’ve seen in some time. Here is the story summary:

Bath, England 1810

At twenty-eight, Alethea Sutherton is past her prime for courtship; but social mores have never been her forté. She might be a lady, but she is first and foremost a musician. In Regency England, however, the violin is considered an inappropriate instrument for a lady to play in public. Ostracized by society for her passion, Alethea practices in secret and waits for her chance to flee to the Continent, where she can play without scandal. But when a thief ’s interest in her violin endangers her and her family, Alethea is determined to discover the enigmatic origins of her instrument … with the help of the dark, brooding Lord Dommick. Scarred by war, Dommick finds solace only in playing his violin. He is persuaded to help Alethea, and discovers an entirely new yearning in his soul. Alethea finds her reluctant heart drawn to Dommick in the sweetest of duets . . . just as the thief’s desperation builds to a tragic crescendo . . .

While I am utterly distracted by these characters and their romance, I must ask … do your characters talk about clothes in the book?

Camille: They don’t talk about clothes, per se, but there is one ball gown that absolutely takes center stage in a major scene in the middle of the book. It’s embroidered and gorgeous and I had so much fun coming up with it for the scene. Here’s an excerpt:

Aunt Ebena turned to Alethea and swept her eyes from the embroidery edging the hem of her green gown, up to the embroidery at her square neckline and edging her puffed sleeves. Aunt Ebena tugged at the embroidered sash just under Alethea’s bodice, smoothing it into place. “Where is your shawl?”

Alethea grabbed the shawl from the chair, a large silk affair in a lighter shade of green but with the same detailed embroidery at each end.

“Your sleeves are too loose,” Aunt Ebena said.

“I had the gown made with more ease in the shoulders so that I could play my violin.” Before now, she had practiced with her old gowns which were already cut loosely at the shoulder. She had never had cause to play while wearing an evening gown, and so had this one specially made.

Hmm … I’ve just realized that there is a special green evening gown in The Spinster’s Christmas. I must be partial to green. :)

Shelley: One of the loveliest things about an author’s public life is the ability to go about in costume without people thinking we’re strange or that we’ve forgotten it’s not Hallowe’en. Don’t you agree?

Camille: Oh, definitely! When I go to conferences and award dinners for my romantic suspense, which has Asian characters, I usually wear a Japanese or Chinese costume. My favorite is a black velvet cheongsam with gold trimming.

Shelley: Let’s pretend we’re going to collaborate on a costume to match your book cover so that you can sign books at a fan convention. My go-to pattern for Regency clothes was created by La Mode Bagatelle. If one wears a modern bra under these dresses, however, the results are disastrous (trust me), so I recommend first making the Corset Petticoat. And this pattern includes the very spencer with the stand-up collar on your book cover! Let’s use the LMB pattern to make it in a pretty plum velvet to set off your complexion.

La Mode Bagatelle pattern back
We could use the LMB pattern for the dress as well, but Jennie Chancey also offers one with multiple versions—some of which could have stepped straight out of the A&E Pride and Prejudice. Choose one here. What fabric would you make it up in?

Camille: This is so fun! I totally am intending to make up a Regency gown and spencer (or pelisse) for myself eventually! Those patterns are so lovely! On the cover of Prelude, the gown is white crepe with gold embroidery. I love embroidered fabrics–they’re so elegant and I guess I also appreciate the work if it was hand-embroidered.

Shelley: The Regency lady would not set foot out of doors without gloves and bonnet. One might order a lovely bonnet or hat here, either already trimmed, or plain to be trimmed using fabric scraps from the dress, along with flowers and ribbon. But, you clever minx, I believe you have a solution for the gloves?

Camille: LOL Yes I fondly remember knitting your lacy full-length opera gloves for you from white cotton thread. Do you wear the gloves often? I forgot to get a picture of them before I gave them to you so we must have a photo day together.

Shelley: While I deplore the current fad for the “selfie,” I compromised my principles for your sake. Because really, these gloves are a work of art.

Opera gloves made by Camille Elliot for Shelley Adina

Camille: Before I knit your pair, I knit a test pair for myself from laceweight light blue alpaca wool. If anyone’s interested, you can see photos and knitting notes on my Ravelry page.

Shelley: This has been such fun–thank you so much for visiting. And look, you’ve brought your famous apricot scones for tea! How lovely–let us adjourn to the sitting room at once!

Camille: I love the tradition of tea! Will you pour for us? Thank you for a lovely interview!

 

A Lady of Integrity—Overview + Excerpt

A Lady of Integrity by Shelley AdinaWill a daring rescue put a wedding and a future at risk?

Lady Claire Trevelyan and renowned scientist Andrew Malvern are looking forward to domestic felicity in London when they are surprised by an unexpected visitor. A desperate and fugitive Alice Chalmers seeks their help—her ship has been seized in the Duchy of Venice and worse, her navigator Jake has been thrown into the dreaded underwater prison from which no one ever escapes. Even the innocent.

Lady Claire is about to embark on her career in Munich at the Zeppelin Airship Works. The Mopsies are beginning their final year at school. Andrew Malvern begins to despair of his fiancée ever choosing a wedding gown … but when help is denied from official quarters, the close bonds of friendship and shared adventure trump all these considerations with an urgency that cannot be ignored.

But there is a brooding evil waiting for them in Venice … an evil that would just as soon put an end to the flock’s interference once and for all. Add to this an innocent friend’s return, a young man’s confusion about his future, and a pair of secret agents who would prefer that women not become involved … and the situation clearly calls for the inner resources of a lady of integrity.


Chapter One

London, October 1894

“I absolutely, positively forbid it,” Lady Claire Trevelyan said with a firmness that came of complete conviction. “There will be no pink of any kind at my wedding–and that includes flowers and your dress, Maggie.”
“But Lady–“
“Of any kind.”
Maggie Polgarth gazed longingly at the illustration of the latest creation by Madame du Barry, its roseate glory taking up the entire center spread of London Home and Hearth magazine, that popular glossy publication that came in the Sunday edition of the Evening Standard. Having remembered her travails at the hands of that same modiste, Claire was seriously reconsidering the renewal of her subscription.
“Don’t you think you are being somewhat harsh, dearest?” Andrew Malvern inquired from his chair by the fire, where he was engaged in a lively hand of Cowboy Poker with Snouts McTavish, Lewis Protheroe, and Lizzie Seacombe, none of whom were showing any respect whatsoever for his age and consequence.
“Pink is far more harsh to me than I am to it,” Claire informed him, her heart warming at the contented if keenly competitive picture they made. “On this point I will not be moved. The Mopsies will precede me down the aisle in tawny silk with emerald green and sapphire blue velvet sashes, and Snouts will escort me wearing a green waistcoat with as much embroidery upon it as he pleases.”
“Peacocks won’t have anything on me,” Snouts said absently. “I’ll see your toothpick and raise you a thimble, Mr. Andrew–though it will do me no good. Lizzie is going to trounce us all and you’ll be wishing you’d folded five minutes ago.”
And so it proved to be. With a cry of aggravation, Andrew threw down his unsuccessful hand, congratulated Lizzie on her victory, and came to join Claire on the sofa, where she was curled up with her engineering notebook and several sharp pencils she’d barely managed to keep the boys from tossing in the pot as bets.
“Is it time to order more toothpicks?” Claire asked, raising her face and receiving a kiss that was not quite proper considering they were in front of the children.
“We can get another night out of this lot.” Andrew folded himself next to her and had a look at her drawing. “It’s a lucky thing no one actually uses them for picking teeth. What are you working on? A wedding gown?”
She poked him in the ribs with the eraser end of the pencil. “This is a dirigible, sir, and if you are implying I ate one too many Yorkshire puddings at dinner, then you had best watch out for the business end of this pencil.”
“I would never imply any such thing. You are perfection, and would be even if I were Jack Spratt and you his legendary wife.”
Claire narrowed her eyes at him and hastily, he returned his attention to the drawing. “Ah, the automaton intelligence system.”
“Indirectly,” she said, her pencil once again busy on the paper. “The count has already adapted it for the long-distance ships that fly to the Antipodes, though they are so much larger than Athena. But efficient flight is more than having more automatons built into the hull. It is also a matter of engines. There simply must be a better way to power these great Daimler engines. Half the holds are filled with coal, and water condensers are heavy. I will find it, Andrew. Before I arrive next week, I want to have a design firmly in my mind, so as to waste no time once I actually take up my work in the laboratory.”
“And you have settled this with Count von Zeppelin?”
“No,” Claire said with some reluctance. “We have not actually discussed my duties in detail yet. But I am quite sure he will allow me to work on this project. It can only benefit the Zeppelin Airship Works in the long run.”
She spoke as though it were a foregone conclusion, when in fact she did not know exactly what the count had in mind for her when she took up her position at the greatest manufactory of airships in the world. Their correspondence had not gone into detail, and their many conversations during her university career had been directed more toward philosophy and mechanics than specifics such as where her laboratory would be or whom she would hire to assist her.
“I wish Alice would write again,” she said, following that thought. “She and I would make a marvelous team, and I have heard nothing since I answered that peculiar letter.”
“At least she says she and Jake are all right,” Maggie put in, now engaged in doing the crossword puzzle in the back of the newspaper with Lizzie while Lewis diagrammed the hand they had just invented. He sent the spreads in once a month for the paper’s back page. No one had yet discovered that the mysterious poker player who provided the most maddeningly clever variations on the popular game was actually the owner of the Gaius Club, membership to which was so sought after among the young and wealthy that there was a waiting list a year long.
“I am dying to hear the story,” Claire admitted, “but I confess I am a little worried about what could have made her flee the Duchy of Venice in such a fashion, and why she asked for my help when she is safely in Bavaria. It does not add up.”
…to be continued…

“It’s another excellent book in an excellent series. The world is wacky and immense fun, the stories exciting and all well written and well paced (and with chickens for even more fun). But the backbone of this great series is and has always been the characters–their issues, their layers, their complexity, their solid relationships and loyalties all elevated a good book to a really great one.”
Fangs for the Fantasy, on Maggie’s book, A Lady of Spirit

On Location in Venice

Over the course of 30 books, I’ve come to believe firmly in onsite research. Whether I’m in rural Pennsylvania working on an Amish book or in London strolling down Wilton Crescent (yes, it’s real–see? Though the address of Carrick House is not), I like to have my feet on the ground and my senses open to temperature, scent, sight, and sound. I like to know, so that I can put that setting on the page and share it with the reader just as I experienced it.

Wilton Crescent, photographed by Shelley Adina

Which is why, in October, I found myself in Venice.

Photographed by Shelley AdinaVenice. La Serenissima. A city like no other place on earth. Only in Venice could Leonardo da Vinci create a massive underwater gearworks that supports the city’s clocklike movement, each neighborhood revolving around its fellows in a dance that has gone on for 500 years, concealing the Doge from his many enemies and confounding generations of postmen.

Only in Venice could one hear the bells of all the churches ringing at once and know they signified, not compline or vespers, but the raising of all the bridges over all the canals so that the neighborhoods could move on their appointed rounds without anyone falling in.

Photographed by Shelley AdinaOnly in Venice could one walk past a building like this (above) and immediately know that it was meant to be the entrance to the dreaded underwater prison—so forbidding. So very Traitor’s-Gate-like. So … frighteningly official. It positively moans, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

Photographed by Shelley AdinaOnly in Venice does one see mooring poles in every conceivable color, reflecting the liveries of the old families and the workaday ones of ordinary folk alike. Why should they not moor airships instead of gondolas?

Cistern photographed by Shelley AdinaOnsite research isn’t merely so that I can bring the five senses into a story. It’s where ideas come thick and fast–scenes–snippets of dialogue that could only take place right there, next to that gate beside that canal. Or there, next to that cistern, with the acqua alta rising and the cries of the imprisoned coming up through the grates.

Google Earth just isn’t the same.

 

 

New Release! The Wedding Scandal

Back in April of this year, across a restaurant table, Bella Andre leaned in and shared with our business creativity group that her Four Weddings and a Fiasco series (which she writes as Lucy Kevin) would be getting its own Kindle World. And since sweet romance is one of the things I write, she asked me if I’d like to contribute a novella. Would I..! However, if I was to make my production schedule, between April and September stood a Magnificent Devices book and a Healing Grace book. A busy summer ensued, and when those were completed, I got busy dreaming of what might happen when … somebody gave away a wedding.

The result was a novella of 30,000 words, Four Weddings and a Fiasco: The Wedding Scandal, out today and exclusive to Amazon!

The Wedding Scandal by Shelley Adina

A giveaway wedding … a runaway bride …

Three days before their wedding at the Rose Chalet, actor Drake Devlin tells veterinary technician Lynette Brunelli that he’s given away ceremony, flowers, catering—the whole wedding—to a needy couple as a publicity stunt for the Dare To Wish Foundation. Which would have been fine if his next sentence hadn’t ended their engagement! So Lynette boards a plane to Venice, determined to take her honeymoon alone.

Best man Grant Hiller is bound for Venice on the same flight for a photography assignment, appalled that his friend has treated this beautiful woman in such a shocking way. When she finds out he has nowhere to stay and invites him to share the gorgeous palazzo on the Grand Canal, he can’t resist the chance to get to know Lynette better. But it’s only after he helps her treat an injured bird that he realizes just how special she is … and how much he wants her in his life.

But scandal has followed them all the way to Italy and back to San Francisco. Will her past with Drake come between them forever? Or will there be a wedding at the Rose Chalet after all?

A Lady of Integrity: cover reveal

A little while ago, I asked your opinions on which cover model would work best to represent Alice Chalmers on the cover of A Lady of Integrity. Your votes seemed heavily weighted in favor of the rather windswept blonde who didn’t seem quite comfortable in clothes that weren’t work pants and a flight jacket.

I’m delighted to say that, with the help of pixel wizard Claudia at Phat Puppy Art, and cover designer Kalen O’Donnell, who is responsible for the distinctive look of the series—along with you folks who gave me your thoughts—A Lady of Integrity‘s cover is ready to make its bows!

A Lady of Integrity by Shelley Adina

Look for the novel’s release toward the end of this year. I’m off shortly to do some onsite research in one or two of its locations (Venice!) and will begin writing as soon as I get back. After all, I have to figure out how to get our Jake out of that underwater prison.