I'd like to welcome author Donna Cummings to my blog. She is the author of "Lord Midnight" and written a guest post today about highwaymen and how they influenced her book. She will also be giving away a copy of her book so don't forget to enter.
There's something so romantic about highwaymen. Well, the fantasy ones at least.
In reality, highwaymen were robbers. Think of them as "carriage carjackers". The difference is they became the stuff of legends. They were supposedly charming and chivalrous, as well as witty and debonair. Highwaymen were actually self-serving thieves, but with the remarkable ability to capture the public's imagination, so much so that they had poems and songs written about them and their larcenous exploits.
It's easy to take that one step further and turn a highwayman into the hero of a love story.
While I was researching some things about the Regency era, I read several newspapers from that time, and I came across a few random articles that intrigued my writer brain. One item was about a country house being broken into, "by footpads", and while no one was harmed, it was clear from the report that this was not a usual occurrence. I stashed that info in my packrat brain, wondering, like everyone else probably did then, "Why on earth would footpads invade somebody's house?" Footpads are typically outdoor criminals. Why would they risk capture by coming inside?
Well, my brain chewed on that and then came up with this for an answer: what if it wasn't a footpad, but a highwayman? (I know. It's a weird leap, but stay with me a little longer.) And what if it was a highwayman who used to live in that house, before it was stolen from him by a murderous uncle? And what if he wanted to see the bedchamber that belonged to him as a child, as well as a bold young woman staying there, the very one he had just encountered when he robbed her carriage?
So that's how my Regency highwayman, Lord Midnight, got his start, when I had to add a little twist of fantasy to the reality of a situation. I hope you'll enjoy this scene where he, and Marisa, the woman who ends up stealing his heart, meet for the second time:
Something had moved in the bed.
The room should have been empty, but he realized too late it was not. Remnants of a fire glowed in the fireplace against the far wall, and he could see now there were no telltale signs of neglect in the bedchamber.
Gabriel crept forward to see who occupied the bed he still considered his. The embers of the dying fire highlighted a young woman in deep sleep, a froth of blonde hair enveloping her. He reached his hand toward the golden silkiness, so reminiscent of the intrepid beauty earlier that night.
His hand stilled.
It was Lord Westbrook's betrothed.
Gabriel lowered his hand over the sleeping beauty's mouth, simultaneously waking her and stifling her scream. She clawed at his hand, her eyes wide with terror. She struggled to move further away from him.
Gabriel slanted forward to restrain her, pinning her down with his arms. He felt a moment's remorse at causing her such anguish, particularly when she battled him even more fiercely. Yet he had too much at stake should she sound an alarm.
"Ssh, angel. You'll come to no harm at my hand if you cooperate."
He leaned closer, intent on reassuring her further, but the softness of her warm body nearly distracted him. She tugged at his hand once more, trying to get free of his grip.
"I do not mean to harm you."
She raised her eyebrows, and he could swear her expression was an exasperated one. Instead of being frightened by his presence, she was signaling she found his tactics rather clumsy.
He felt the release of tension under his hand, and saw some of the annoyance leave her eyes.
"No coercion is needed, then?"
She shook her head to demonstrate her compliance.
"Why are you here," he whispered, "in this bedchamber?"
He lifted his hand, his eyes warning her of the consequences should she attempt to scream.
"I would ask you the same," she countered.
"I shall tell you my purpose once I learn the reason for your presence," he bargained, though not altogether truthfully.
"I meant to avail myself of some sleep," she muttered. "As you recall, I was beset by highwaymen this evening."
This time he could not halt a chuckle. "Well?" he prompted.
"I am to stay at my betrothed's home until the wedding."
The unexpected reply stopped Gabriel's heart for one beat. He had known she was to wed Lord Westbrook, but he had not realized she would be staying at his home, or rather, Gabriel's rightful home.
He grinned. Would Lord Westbrook find it amusing that Gabriel was comfortably entwined with the man's future bride?
The notion made his heart pound. After so many years wishing he could bring about Edmund's downfall, Gabriel had not expected such an opportunity to present itself. Yet, much as he wanted to, he could not implement his plot just then. He did not want to risk capture before he could commence the delicious scheme, and with the Westbrook rubies still on his person, he risked a great deal more than was wise.
He reached for her flaxen hair. She scarce seemed to breathe, yet he was unable to resist one touch while she remained in his arms. Her hair was as soft as down, and he smoothed the length of it several times. With each caress, he pulled her sweet body closer to his. Too late he realized it was well nigh impossible to rein in his desire for the brave miss.
He released his arms with the greatest of reluctance. "Mistress Angel."
She sighed, the soft hiss filling the now-silent bedchamber.
It was followed by another sound, this time from the hallway.
Gabriel scrambled upright, his pulse racing. There was too much at stake should he be discovered here.
The footsteps resonated through the otherwise hushed hallway, tapping out Gabriel's doom. He turned his head toward the door he had entered earlier, gauging his chances of escape. It was too far away, and much too risky.
His eyes darted to the French door across the room. It was impossible to make it there in time.
The footfalls grew louder, more urgent, pounding in the same rhythm as Gabriel's heart. Whoever it was, they were close now, almost to the door. He could try to brazen his way past the visitor, or engage them in some sort of fisticuffs. It would permit him to escape, but it would also alert Edmund to his existence, spoiling Gabriel's newfound plan for revenge.
Seeing no other choice, he rejoined his angelic companion in her bed.
She gasped, although the sound was muffled by his hand once more covering her mouth.
Gabriel pulled her to his side. At that tense moment, he was unable to savor the sensations of her body pressed so intimately to his.
"Angel, do nothing that might give me away," he whispered.
Before she could respond, he dove beneath the silk counterpane.
Blurb: Lord Midnight, a dashing highwayman, lives for revenge against the uncle who stole his title and tried to kill him when he was a child. His plan for vengeance--seducing his uncle's bride-to-be--collides with his passion for this spirited young woman desperate to escape her wedding. Soon he must choose: the woman who stole his heart, or revenge against the man who stole his life. Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.
Bio: I have worked as an attorney, winery tasting room manager, and retail business owner, but nothing beats the thrill of writing humorous contemporary and historical romances. Currently I reside in Massachusetts, although I fantasize about spending the rest of my days in a tropical locale, consuming mojitos for breakfast and wearing flip flops year-round. I can usually be found at the local Starbucks, fine-tuning my caffeine levels while working on my latest manuscript, or on Twitter (@BookEmDonna), talking about writing, and coffee. You can also visit me at www.AllAboutTheWriting.com.
I have one ebook copy of Lord Midnight to give to one lucky commenter! Just tell me what you love about highwaymen, or what blend of reality/fantasy you like in your romance stories.
Just leave a comment answering Donna's question and leave your email address so that I can contact you if you win.