Author Luanna Stewart joins us this week to share the story behind her novel Love & Mayhem.
Thank you so much, K.J., for letting me visit with your readers.
[K.J. here – thanks for coming to visit, Luanna!]
One of my favourite scenes in my latest release, Love & Mayhem, is right at the start when the hero and heroine meet. They’d known each other before but hadn’t seen each other in many years due to unforeseen circumstances. I wanted to convey Sybil’s feisty independence and her apparent disinterest in male persons. She’s convinced she’s happy as a spinster on the shelf, occupying her time with running the family sheep farm. But when she sees Max she can’t believe the young man from her past has become this mature and handsome man – truly hero worthy.
Max, the hero, had been away for several years and had all but forgotten the sister of his friend. He certainly had no recollection of her being particularly beautiful. So when they meet again he’s thrown for a loop, no longer sure of his plans for the future. In that first meeting he’s confronted by a female who doesn’t act at all as females should, and his curiosity is piqued.
The whole reason I wanted to write this story was to turn the usual trope – young woman must marry because she has the hots for the guy but won’t sleep with him until they’re wed – on its head. Sybil has the hots for Max but there’s no way in heck she’ll get married. She enjoys her independence and a husband will just get in the way. She’ll take a lover instead. She pursues him, and has the devil of a time convincing him to participate. Also, she’s unschooled in seduction and has to do research. Needless to say, shenanigans ensue, hehe.
Sybil is happily on the shelf, tending to her sheep. But she fears she’ll depart this life without experiencing physical love, which she suspects is rather enjoyable. When her long-lost fiancé returns from sea, she decides he’s the lucky man who’ll receive her virginity.
Max is eager to return to his sugar plantation and has no intention of remaining long in London. However, he didn’t bargain on a wilful, pretty, exasperating spinster determined to take him to her bed.
He insists on marriage but she wants only his body. Her heart is not part of the deal. Unfortunately, love doesn’t always follow the rules.
Excerpt from Chapter One
London, England, 1882
Sybil Woodbridge shut the door and sank onto the hard chair behind the desk in the study of the rented house. She glanced at the threadbare carpet, more dirt than pattern, then at the dirt under her fingernails. She was filthy from scrubbing the top layer of grime in the rooms they’d use. If it were up to her, she’d—
But it wasn’t up to her. A spinster sister had few rights even in these more enlightened times. Married women had even fewer. Thank goodness that at the ripe old age of twenty-nine offers of marriage had dried up.
She shivered as the damp cold penetrated her gown. That smell was in this room, too. She was used to strong odors, being a sheep farmer, but those smells were the natural result of raising animals. She enjoyed them: hay, damp fleece, manure. This smell—she wrinkled her nose. She suspected several mouse carcasses lay within the walls. A rodent crypt.
She got up and stirred the fire, then placed a few more lumps of coal on the grate. Late February was frigid this year, and the house was impossible to keep warm. No wonder her brother had been able to rent it so cheaply.
Seated again at her desk with heat from the fire warming her back, she moved her journal to one side and shuffled through papers and ledgers. Balancing the accounts from the previous year should have been done weeks ago. But with one thing and another, the tedious chore had been moved from one day’s list of tasks to the next. And the next, and the next. Most days she could find any number of things she’d rather do than sit in the virtual counting house. Most days—well, all the time—she had a farm to manage and fields to tromp.
Unfortunately, her silly brother had gotten an idea in his head, and so here she was, in London, in a rented house, with naught to do but add income and subtract expenses—the larger of the two sums.
Squirming in the chair, she rubbed at her leg. Dratted wool stockings, always prickling and itching. And crawling—
Crawling. Blast. Sybil hiked up her skirts. The sensation of tiny legs scrabbling over her flesh increased tenfold. Now the buggers were on her thighs heading toward—
She pulled the skirts to her waist, spread her legs, and searched the skin.
Oswald had rented a flea-infested hovel!
Where were the buggers? She felt them crawling through the hair on her head and up her back. Blast it all to—when she saw her brother again…
The door opened.
She raised her head to verbally skewer the speaker, but it wasn’t Oswald. It was a man, though. An attractive man. The handsomest man she’d ever seen. Or imagined. Tall, swarthy, with brilliant blue eyes staring at her—oh!
Sybil tried lowering her skirt but it had become tangled with itself and the hem was caught on the arm of the chair.
Oh heavens, her face burned. She was not a pretty blusher, but instead looked like she’d been slapped hard. Finally, finally, she got her legs covered and again met the man’s gaze. “Who are you?”
Maxwell Bretherton closed the door at his back and leaned against the solid wood. Sybil, in the flesh. And what gloriously pale, smooth flesh it was, covering slender legs. All the way to her frilly drawers.
What a sight for sexually deprived eyes. He’d not gazed on a woman’s naked body in months. Not that she was naked but he’d like her to be. He’d forgotten how pretty she was. Blonde hair gleaming in the lamplight. Green eyes wide, surprised, embarrassed.
His cock stirred. Definitely too long since he’d slept with a woman. Though, since his mistress never came to his house, and he never spent the night in hers, sleep didn’t enter the picture. Best to give it the proper name—tupping, fornicating, fucking.
Finding Sybil with her legs spread wide put all those words at the front of his brain.
“I said, who are you?” Definitely angry.
“Don’t you recognize me? I knew you instantly, even with that charming distraction.” He moved closer to the heat from the fire. And into the circle of light.
“Good heavens.” Her voice barely above a whisper, her eyes widened farther and the color drained from her cheeks. “What the hell are you doing here?”
Where to Purchase
Luanna Stewart has been creating adventures for her imaginary friends since childhood. As soon as she discovered her grandmother’s stash of romance novels, all plots had to lead to a happily-ever-after.
Luanna writes full time, concentrating on sexy romantic suspense, steamy paranormal romance, and spicy historical romance.
Born and raised in Nova Scotia, Luanna has recently returned to the land of her birth with her dear husband and two spoiled cats. When she’s not torturing her heroes and heroines, she’s in her kitchen baking something delicious.
Under her previous pen name of Grace Hood she has two novellas published with The Wild Rose Press.
Luanna’s Online Playground
Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/luanna_stewart