I've been waiting until I had my paperwork finished to make the announcement, but my next historical romance, Castaway Dreams, is sold to Amber Quill Press. I anticipate an ebook and print release in late spring, and naturally there will be more on this as it gets closer.
Castaway Dreams is the story of dour surgeon Alexander Murray from Sea Change, the guy who didn't get the girl. At first I thought Alexander would be the hero, then I realized that while he and Charley would have bonded happily over dissecting cadavers, she really needed a pirate. Alexander thinks he knows what he needs, but his life is about to get complicated by "Daffy" Daphne Farnham, a young lady aboard the vessel returning him to England. Here's a glimpse from the first few pages of the manuscript:
“Useful,” she said in a low voice. “Is that how you evaluate people, Doctor?”
He looked at her with greater interest. Perhaps she was not as dim as he thought.
“Yes, Miss Farnham, that is how I evaluate people. In the natural world everything serves a purpose and is useful, from the animals we hunt and the plants we harvest to the maggots that eat dead flesh.”
“But what of young ladies, Doctor? Must they be as useful as,” she swallowed, “maggots?”
He stepped closer to her, intrigued now. She smelled of lavender, and the part of his brain connected to certain anatomical functions registered this and woke up. It had been a long time since he’d relaxed in port with hired companionship. Then he remembered that young ladies were not in a class of women where one could dally without consequences, even young ladies of questionable reputation.
But he was still intrigued.
“I do not deal much with young ladies, Miss Farnham. I can tell you though that all the women I do know have been, in one fashion or another, useful.” He thought back to a certain young woman who had run off with an American and added, “Some are extremely useful, and competent in a crisis, and yes, that is how I judge people.”
Her eyelashes lowered, shading her thoughts from him. She was wearing something ruffled and pink, of course, and he noted that women’s gowns were now so high-waisted that it brought their bosoms into pronounced prominence. She had a shawl of flowered silk wrapped about her against the evening breeze and the light wind whipped strands of hair out from under the frilly and completely non-utilitarian bit of lace atop her head.
“Dr. Murray! Such a harsh assessment of the ladies! La, sir, you would find yourself shunned from the most entertaining drawing rooms for such a puritanical outlook.”
“Since it has never been my desire to be a success in entertaining, I will not fret over it, Miss Farnham.”
She seemed to be mulling over his words, then her face brightened.
“I do have a useful skill, Dr. Murray.”
He looked at her.
“I am quite talented at picking out just the right hat or gloves to complement an ensemble.”
She smiled, waiting for his praise.
“Miss Farnham, I would hardly term that a useful skill.”
“Oh, but I beg to differ, sir. Knowing which accessories make an outfit complete is what separates us from the animals.”
He found his mouth opening to argue this and then shut it. What was the point? But now, with her mind engaged, she was prepared to defend her claim. She came closer then and lightly laid her lilac-gloved hand on his arm.
“What is life without some color, some entertainment, Doctor? Should our days only be filled with work and useful functions? What of...” she thought for a moment, and since he suspected this was a rare event, he did not interrupt her. “Butterflies! Butterflies spend their days flitting from flower to flower, Doctor. They live to entertain.”
“You are mistaken, Miss Farnham. Butterflies are useful creatures, as are other members of the Lepidoptera family. Butterflies and moths spread pollen amongst plants. Even the ugliest and plainest moth can do that job, just as a butterfly does. And they make a meal for birds.”
“My dear Dr. Murray! Do you see butterflies floating through a meadow on a summer morning and only think of them as food for larger creatures?”
He would have told her how long it had been since he’d seen a summer meadow, with or without butterflies adorning it, but he was too aware of the feel of her hand on his arm. She was not applying any pressure at all, but it drew his senses. That butterfly touch, even muted by her gloves and his coat, made him aware of how alien she truly was, how soft and clean and fragrant, so different from the men with whom he spent his days and his nights.
“Miss Daphne Farnham!”
Mrs. Cowper’s grating voice broke his concentration, and he looked up from the soft lips of his interlocutor to see her chaperone bearing down on them like a ship of the line. Even in the near dark he could see how pale the older woman’s face was. She was also short of breath, but given her size that was to be expected. One could not haul that much weight up and down between decks without strain.
“Mrs. Cowper, are you well?”
She looked at him disdainfully.
“I am well enough, Mr. Murray! I just need to sit down and drink my cordial to feel tip-top again. As for you, miss, you should not be out here. What would your father say?”
Bertha Cowper’s jowly cheeks were aquiver with indignation, and small wisps of hair that had dared to escape her tightly pulled bun were sticking to the sweat pouring down her forehead. He started to speak again, but she was still going on.
“...and if I need medical attention, I will wait until we are in England and I will consult a proper physician.” She punctuated this by grabbing Miss Farnham by the arm in a grip that made Alexander wince for the young woman’s sake, and pulled her charge behind her, still talking.
“...you should not be speaking to the likes of Mr. Murray, Miss Farnham. He’s only a ship’s surgeon. You are in enough trouble, young lady, you do not need to be looking for more...”
“But the sailors call him doctor, Mrs. Cowper.”
“They are common, and ignorant. You are above him in station and it will not help your reputation to be seen spending time with him or with the other riff-raff aboard this vessel!”
But then an odd thing happened. Even as she was being hauled away Miss Farnham turned. She smiled at Alexander, a smile of such surpassing sweetness he was struck dumb by the gesture. He could see all too clearly now how even a reasonable man could lose his composure over a cloth-headed young lady.