They call her Beastly Beatrice.
Wallflower Lady Beatrice Bentley longs to remain in the wilds of Cornwall to complete her etymological dictionary. Too bad her brother’s Gothic mansion is under renovation. How can she work with an annoyingly arrogant and too-handsome rogue swinging a hammer nearby?
Rogue. Scoundrel. Call him anything you like as long as you pay him.
Navy man Stamford Wright is leaving England soon and renovating Thornhill House is just a job. It’s not about the duke’s bookish sister or her fiery copper hair. Or the etymology lessons the prim-yet-alluring lady insists on giving him. Or the forbidden things he'd love to teach her.
They say never mix business with pleasure. But when Beatrice and Ford aren't arguing, they're kissing.
Sometimes temptation proves too strong to resist…even if the cost is a heart.
Excerpt from Love is a Rogue
Beatrice peered over the window ledge. Whispers and . . . smacking noises? Were they kissing? And, incidentally, what would a kiss from Wright be like? She stuck her head farther out the window.
Her spectacles slipped off her nose and plummeted straight for his head. She dropped into a crouch beneath the window, cheeks flaming and heart thudding. She could only hope that he was too occupied to notice a pair of spectacles falling from the sky.
Silence from below. She risked a quick glance out the window. Egad. She dropped back to a crouch.
Wright had found her spectacles, and apparently he meant to return them to her. He was climbing straight up the rose trellis like a pirate scaling the rigging of a ship, making a beeline for the library window. He couldn’t climb the stairs like other people. Oh no, he must display his brute strength by climbing hand over hand.
Mortification. Noun. Late fourteenth century. From Late Latin mortificationem, “putting to death.”
Could she make a dash for the library door? Not without her spectacles. Nothing for it but to face him.
She’d faced humiliation before. Stared it down. Dared it to break her.
This would be a very brief interaction. He would hand over the spectacles; she would thank him, and then send him on his merry way back down the trellis.
“Greetings, princess.” His voice was velvet-wrapped gravel.
Beatrice rose on wobbly knees. He was fuzzy without her spectacles, a huge shape blocking out the sunlight, a hulking blur with azure eyes. A blue to drown in, she’d heard one of the upstairs maids say swoonily. Beatrice’s brain sank beneath water. Her thoughts went blub, blub, blub. Which wasn’t like her at all. Words were her stock-in-trade, were they not?
Apparently, when confronted by the sudden appearance of a far-too-handsome rogue at her window, she lost the ability to form words into sentences . . . or even to speak at all.
Pull yourself together. Not an ounce of ninny, remember?
He balanced easily on the trellis, gripping the wood with one enormous hand and dangling the wire loop of her spectacles from the fingers of his other hand.
“Good day, Wright.” She spoke in the most nonchalant and unconcerned tone she could summon. “Lovely day for climbing rose trellises, what?”
He dangled the spectacles closer to her. “I presume these are yours?”
“Er . . . yes. I lost them while”—trying to see down your trousers—“watering the roses.”
Ludicrous. If she’d been watering the roses, she would have poured water on his head.
“Really?” His voice dropped to a rough, conspiratorial whisper. “Because I thought you might have been spying on me.”
“Don’t be silly. I needed a breath of air. I opened the window and I . . . I don’t have to explain myself to you. Hand over my spectacles immediately.”
His laughter was low and intimate. “A lofty lady would never spy on a carpenter, is that it?”
“I wasn’t spying.”
“I see,” he said with a smirk.
“I don’t.” She held out her palm.
Instead of giving her the spectacles, he reached forward and set them on her nose, using one thumb to gently hook the wires over each of her ears in turn. She was so startled by his touch that she froze in place.
His thumb brushed her right ear. Somehow the tip of her ear was connected to the pit of her belly. Which was connected to . . . everything.
His face sharpened into focus.
She’d known his eyes were blue. What she hadn’t known was that his left eye contained an uneven patch of golden brown, like a sunflower silhouetted against a summer sky. His chin was hard-angled, and there was a cleft slightly to the left of center. Dark whiskers shadowed his strong jawline.
Don’t do it, Beatrice. Do not melt into a puddle of quivering ninnyhood.
She took a steadying breath. “You’d better climb back down before that trellis breaks under your prodigious weight.”
“Don’t worry about me, princess.” He winked. “Repaired this trellis myself. It’s built to last.”
“Do stop calling me princess,” she said irritably, the nonchalance she’d been striving for making a fast retreat.
“You’re imprisoned in a tower.”
“I’m here quite by choice. I’m writing, or I would be if you weren’t making so much noise.”
“Is it the noise that distracts you?” He flexed the muscles of his free arm. “Or the man.”
Beatrice gulped for air. Why must the man incessantly call attention to his physical endowments? “Such an ostentatious display might be efficacious where housemaids are concerned, but it has no effect whatsoever on female scholars.”
“You’re not fascinated by me.” His voice swirled from velvet to smoke. “You never watch me from behind the curtains.”
He caught her gaze and held it.
He’d seen her watching.
A fresh wave of mortification washed through her mind. “If I happened to glance out the window from time to time, it was due to sheer frustration. You’ve ruined what was meant to be a tranquil literary haven.”
“And here I thought I’d been inspiring you.”
“I was sure you were scribbling away at a romantic novel and needed inspiration for describing your hero. That’s why you were always gazing at me from the window.” He gave her a smoldering look. “I’d be happy to provide a more up close and personal study.”
“You conceited peacock!”
“Admit it. You enjoyed the view.”
“I’ll admit nothing of the sort.”
He plucked a single red rose and offered it to her through the open window. “For you, princess. It matches your cheeks when they’re flushed from my proximity.”
“You . . . you . . .” Beatrice sputtered.
“Scoundrel?” he suggested.
He tilted his head. “That’s a new one.”
“Have you considered that your renovations might progress more swiftly, Mr. Wright, if you did more carpentering and less flirting? First Jenny and now me—don’t you ever exhaust your store of vexatious trifling?”
He propped his elbow on the window ledge and leaned closer. “I thought you weren’t spying on me.”
“I wasn’t. I was watering the roses.”
“I think you were watching.” His gaze dropped to her lips. “Because you wanted to see what a kiss from me would be like.”
Beatrice wasn’t accustomed to men perusing her with that hooded, hazy look in their eyes. She was no beauty. She never incited desire.
She never experienced desire.
And yet . . . the glow in her belly was spreading. She still felt the soft brush of his fingers along the edge of her ear.
“This conversation is over. Be on your way.”
“Not yet.” He wrapped his hand over the window ledge. “I have a question to ask you.”
“I don’t want anyone to overhear me asking it.”
“That doesn’t sound proper.”
“I’m never proper. Don’t even know what the word means.”
“It’s from the Latin proprius meaning ‘one’s own, particular to itself.’ It’s not until the mid fourteenth century that we see the usage meaning ‘by the rules’ or ‘correct and acceptable.’”
“I don’t play by the rules, either.” He slid one knee onto the ledge. “I’m coming in.”
Her sanctuary had been invaded by a rogue.
Welcome back to The Romance Dish, Lenora! I’m always excited when you visit as it usually means a new book for us to enjoy is on the horizon.
LB: Thanks so much for hosting me again, PJ. I always love visiting the Dish! You and your readers are such a warm and welcoming bunch.
Your newest novel, Love Is a Rogue releases October 27 and will launch your Wallflowers Vs Rogues series. What should readers expect from this new series, and from Love is a Rogue in particular?
LB: The Wallflowers vs. Rogues series is a spin-off from the School for Dukes series. Love Is a Rogue features Lady Beatrice Bentley, the duke’s sister from One Fine Duke. Several readers wrote to say they hoped Beatrice would have her own book and I was happy to be able to fulfill their wishes. Readers can expect more pop-culture references (Beauty and the Beast, Star Wars, HGTV…the list will go on as each book is finished) as well as lots of humor, emotion, and heat.
I enjoyed Beatrice’s love of words and learned a few new ones while reading her story. Do you share that love? What’s your favorite “big word?”
LB: I’ve always loved learning new words and languages. I grew up in a literary household where we were allowed to read whatever we wanted from the bookshelves. I devoured every Dickens book at a young age. I remember giggling over the word “excrescence” in A Christmas Carol: “What has he done with his money?” asked a red-faced gentleman with a pendulous excrescence on the end of his nose, that shook like the gills of a turkey-cock.” Such a comic and descriptive word. I used one of my favorite “big words” in Love Is a Rogue. I was in a hand bell choir as a child and we were taught the word “tintinnabulation” meaning a ringing or tinkling sound. Beatrice remarks, “And then there’s tintinnabulation. What a word! Why you can hear the bells ringing within it!”
This beautiful photo from Lenora's new homeland inspires lots of big words!
You’re currently living the ex-pat life in New Zealand. What’s that like?
LB: We’ve fallen head over heels in love with New Zealand. It’s an absolutely gorgeous country that takes environmental regulation very seriously.
And the people have such a great sense of humor—think Taika Waititi.
Beatrice’s arrival at the masquerade ball was one of my favorite scenes in this book. If you were attending a masquerade, what costume would you wear to best reflect your true self?
LB: I’ve always been bookish, so I suppose I’d dress up as Jane Austen or Charlotte Brontë and come with quill in hand and manuscript pages in my pockets.
I loved the pairing of Ford and Lady Beatrice, especially as facets of their romance mirror your own personal life. Will you share the courtship story of Lenora Bell and her own carpenter hero with us?
LB: I met my carpenter husband, Brian, at a party with mutual friends and shortly afterward I hired him to fix up the basement of my quirky Victorian farmhouse in Portland, Oregon. We worked side by side, knocking out old lath and plaster walls, laying new oak flooring, and installing light fixtures. I used a lot of that experience while writing Love Is a Rogue. Beatrice and Ford fall in love while working on an old house, just as Brian and I did. In the book, Ford gives Beatrice a leather tool belt to wear, which is taken directly from real life :-)
Ford and Beatrice are one of my favorite Lenora Bell couples. In many ways, book-loving Beatrice reminds me of Belle from Beauty and the Beast but, in this story, Ford is the beauty. He won my heart because, unlike others, he doesn’t try to change or “improve” Beatrice. He sees her for who she really is and loves her exactly as she is. Did you intend for this to be a flipped Beauty and the Beast story when you conceived it? (Or is that something I read into it?) 😉
LB: Thanks so much, PJ. I’m thrilled that you enjoyed Ford and Beatrice. I had a lot of fun writing their love story and you’re absolutely right — I pitched the book as “Gender-flipped Beauty and the Beast meets HGTV.” All six of my previous historical romances have had wealthy duke heroes. I decided to completely change things up and write a series where the heroes are all working class. Ford from Love Is a Rogue is a ship’s carpenter with the Royal Navy. They say to write what you know—and I know carpenters! My grandfather, father, brother, and husband are all carpenters and builders.
It felt like you were dropping breadcrumbs for future romantic pairs during this book (and I am so here for that if the couples are who I think they are). Are you able to tell us anything about the other pairs who will take center stage in this series?
LB: The next book in the series will be a gender-flipped Cinderella story featuring Lady Henrietta Prince, the newest member of The Mayfair Ladies Knitting League, who is managing the vineyards on her father’s estate. I’m hoping that Viola Beaton’s story will be the third in the series. I was definitely dropping some bread crumbs for her story. Viola’s a musician and composer who is finishing her father’s symphonies because he’s nearly deaf. Viola is dear to my heart because my mother is a pianist, composer, and music teacher who taught me to sing and play several instruments.
New Zealand has built a reputation for wonderful wines. Which one would you choose to pair with Love is a Rogue? What makes it a good match?
LB: The wine here is amazing, especially the Pinot Noirs. We have so many new favorites. I might choose the Madam Sass Pinot Noir from Central Otago for Beatrice because throughout the book she’s really learning to own her sensuality and power. The description for Madam Sass wine says “She is an homage to heroines from Central Otago’s gold rush era; when gutsy women held little regard for the establishment and relished taking risks.”
What’s next? Do you have a projected release date for book two in the Wallflowers Vs Rogues series? Are you able to share anything about the story?
LB: I just submitted my cover ideas for Book Two and I have a tentative title that I can’t share yet, but that I’m very happy about. It’s a gender-flipped Cinderella story with a working class hero who unexpectedly inherits an earldom. I can’t wait to share more about the book soon!
Thank you so much for visiting with us, Lenora. Would you like to add anything or ask my readers a question?
LB: Thanks so much for hosting me, PJ! I can’t wait to “see” you at the Buns & Roses Virtual Romance Tea for Literacy in October.
I’m wondering if your readers had to choose, would they prefer to read a romance loosely inspired by Sleeping Beauty, or one inspired by Snow White and the Seven Dwarves?
What do you think, readers? Will it be Sleeping Beauty or Snow White? Post a comment before 11:00 PM (Eastern), September 25 for a chance to win a prize package from Lenora that includes a signed ARC of Love is a Rogue, a $20 Barnes and Noble gift certificate, and assorted swag.
*Must be 18