Eva Leigh’s irresistible new series introduces the Wicked Quills of London: a group of bold, brilliant female writers whose spirited allure is beyond seductive . . .
Please summarize the book for the readers here:
Eleanor Hawke is definitely familiar with scandal. She’s the owner and editor of The Hawk’s Eye, one of Regency England’s most popular gossip rags. Eleanor’s far more comfortable writing about scandal than being a part of it. Yet all that changes one day when Daniel Balfour, the Earl of Ashford—a notorious rake, and one of Eleanor’s favorite subjects to write about—challenges her to accompany him on his wild nights. Soon, Eleanor is crossing the boundaries between writer and subject, between aloof observer and invested participant. Everything is made much more complicated by the fact that Ashford is wickedly handsome and dangerously seductive. When his true motivations come to light, can Eleanor keep her head, or has she lost herself in the earl’s alluring charms?
Please share the opening lines of this book:
A man rich in wealth and scandal walked into Eleanor Hawke’s office.
Eleanor was no stranger to scandal. Anything immoral, disreputable, shocking, or titillating made its way into the pages of her newspaper—particularly if it involved the wealthy and elite of London society.
Please share a few Fun facts about this book…
- I first learned about scandal sheets when I was in graduate school many years ago.
- Publications like The Spectator and The Tatler recounted all the latest scandal in London—over three hundred years ago! People and TMZ certainly didn’t invent writing about gossip.
- My husband, fellow romance author Nico Rosso, thought up the idea for the naughty limerick contest.
- I based the phaeton race on watching The Fast and the Furious.
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters and why?
Definitely the first scene, where Ashford and Eleanor meet! It sets up the banter, antagonism, and attraction between the hero and the heroine.
“I don’t judge,” she fired back, “only report the facts as I know them.” He snorted. “They aren’t facts. Just half-truths buried in terrible prose.” “My writing is not terrible,” she muttered. “Have you read the Examiner lately? That is truly execrable hack work.” “And yet here I stand,” he said flatly, “in your office.” “So you do. But, my lord, you may rail and complain and whine like a petulant child—” He sputtered. “—but you’re a public figure. As such, that makes you fair game. The rest of the world lead fairly dull lives. We get up—” “As do I.” “Eat our breakfasts.” “I do the same.” “Go to work.” Here, he was silent.
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
I want people to have fun! But I also want them to see that women in Regency England did more than just sit around having tea and planning on what they were going to wear to the ball. They were business owners and professionals, too, who contributed considerably to the world around them.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned for 2015?
I just finished Temptations of a Wallflower, the third book in the Wicked Quills series. Scandal Takes the Stage, which is book two in the series, will be out in November 2015. It’s Marwood and Maggie’s story—we’ll meet them in Forever Your Earl.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: Print copy of FOREVER YOUR EARL by Eva Leigh
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Excerpt from Forever Your Earl:
A man rich in wealth and scandal walked into Eleanor Hawke’s office.
Eleanor was no stranger to scandal. Anything immoral, disreputable, shocking, or titillating made its way into the pages of her newspaper—particularly if it involved the wealthy and elite of London Society. She detailed all of it for her thrice-weekly publication, The Hawk’s Eye. Nobody wanted to read about ordinary shopkeeper Mr. Jones who might or might not be spending time with the humdrum widow Mrs. Smith.
No, The Hawk’s Eye sold strictly on the basis of its publishing the latest scandalous doings of Lord This and Lady That. All, of course, under the pretense of decrying the lack of morals in this fair city, and that publishing these lurid activities served as object lessons to the young and impressionable.
And it was Eleanor’s job as owner and publisher to see to the moral education of London.
Which was utter rubbish, naturally.
But scandal put bread on her table and kept the rain off her head, and she readily immersed herself in it—the spirit of free enterprise, and all that.
Still, when Daniel Balfour, the Earl of Ashford himself, walked into the offices of The Hawk’s Eye on a Wednesday afternoon, blocking the gray light as the door opened and closed, it was both shocking and inevitable that he should do so. Unsurprisingly, he clenched several copies of her paper in his hand.
Lord Ashford marched through the cramped warren of rooms, and writers, bent over their desks, lifted their heads to watch in openmouthed amazement as he passed. Eleanor’s private office lay at the end of the corridor, giving her an ample view of the scene as it played out before her.
The earl stopped in front of Harry Welker’s desk. The young writer stared up at Lord Ashford, the men separated not just by the expanse of battered oak but by circumstance and birth as well.
“H-how might I help you, my lord?” Harry asked, his voice cracking.
“Tell me where Mister E. Hawke is.” Lord Ashford had a deep voice, rounded by generations of excellent breeding and noblesse oblige.
“Mister Hawke, my lord?” There was patent confusion in the young man’s voice.
Lord Ashford pointed to one of the papers he carried. “It says here that The Hawk’s Eye is owned and published by one E. Hawke. Where will I find him?”
“Nowhere, my lord,” Harry answered. “There’s no Mister Hawke here.”
The earl scowled, clearly not used to being denied. “This scurrilous rag cannot publish itself.”
“It doesn’t,” Eleanor announced, setting aside her quill and standing. “If you’re looking for Miss Eleanor Hawke, I’m right over here.”
Lord Ashford looked directly at her, and for the first time, she had a sense of what a rabbit might feel like when sighted by a wolf. But she wasn’t the only one at a disadvantage. The earl couldn’t hide the shock in his expression when he discovered that the publisher and owner of the paper was, in truth, a woman—which gave her a small measure of gratification.
He turned from Harry without another word and walked straight toward her. And she could only stand, pinned by his gaze, as he approached.
The closer he got, the more she realized how dangerous the earl was. Perhaps not in the traditional sense—though she’d heard and written about the duels he’d fought and won—but certainly in the realm of masculine allure. Her few times seeing him had been from a distance: the theater, the races, at a public assembly. She knew him by sight, but he didn’t know her, and they’d never met. And in those instances, her vision had been good enough to recognize that he was a fine specimen, well-formed, handsome—everything a rich and notorious nobleman should be.
But Lord Ashford up close was rather … appalling. It didn’t seem right that a man so blessed by fortune and title should also be so attractive.
His dark brown hair was fashionably cut and artfully tousled, as if he’d recently risen from a lover’s bed. Given his reputation, that was most likely possible. He had a broad forehead, a coin-clean jawline, thick brows, and eyes that, even with yards between her and him, stunned her with their blue clarity. Naturally, he had a mouth that looked very adept at kissing and … other things.
He moved with a long-limbed ease that betrayed his skill as a sportsman. His ink-blue coat fit the broad width of his shoulders, and his cream waistcoat, embroidered in gold, defined the shape of his torso—his tailor on Jermyn Street produced excellent work. Snug doeskin breeches were tucked into polished Hessians that came from Bond Street.
Truly, he was quite alarming.
“Miss Hawke?” he asked sharply, coming to stand in front of her paper-cluttered desk. “I wasn’t expecting a female.”
“Neither were my parents,” she answered, sitting, “but they learned to adapt. How might I help you, my lord?”
Though she felt an obligation to ask the question, she braced herself for what was sure to be a scorching lecture.
He removed his hat and set it aside. Then he held up an issue of The Hawk’s Eye and began to read.
“‘Lord A—d, a figure well-known to our assiduous and genteel readers, was lately seen in the company of a certain Mrs. F—e, whose late husband made his considerable fortune through the manufacture and sale of a woman’s garment we blush to mention in these virtuous pages.’” He tossed one of the issues to the ground. “Wrong.”
“You cannot deny—”
But he wasn’t done. Holding up another issue of the paper, he read again. “‘It may or may not stun our honorable readers to learn that the notorious Lord A—d has not amended his ways following the duel over Lady L., from Y—shire, and has been espied with another married lady of questionable character, at the late-night revels hosted by the equally rakish Mr. S—n. Yet it was noted by our keen-eyed intelligence that this married lady was not the only female vying for the earl’s favors.’” This paper he also cast to the floor. “Wrong.”
She herself had written those pieces, and while they weren’t matchless examples of English prose, she was still rather proud of them, as she was of all her labors. To have her hard work thrown to the ground like so much garbage was rankling.
“I assure you, my lord,” she said bitingly, “The Hawk’s Eye strives for the greatest of accuracy.” She had a network of sources, which she used regularly to provide information. Many members of the aristocracy were in dire need of funds, and they gladly turned on each other in order to maintain the pretense of effortless wealth. Eleanor always paid her informants to keep them returning.
Whether or not they lied to her just to collect payment wasn’t her concern, but she always preferred it if she could validate their statements. Sometimes that meant going out and conducting a few investigations. But she was a very busy woman—writing articles, editing countless others, managing the paper’s finances—and didn’t always have the time.
She had to earn a living, after all. And men like the earl didn’t.
Continuing, she said, “That’s exceptionally conceited of you, my lord, to assume that you are Lord A—d.” Leaning back in her chair, she gave a thin smile. “I could be writing about Lord Archland. Or perhaps Lord Admond.”
“Lord Archland hasn’t left his country estate in a decade,” the earl answered, “and Lord Admond’s days of scandal happened when red heels and powdered wigs were in fashion. The man written about is undoubtedly, nauseatingly, me.”
So much for that defense. “Oh, but you’re far from nauseating, my lord. In fact, you’re enthralling—to my readers,” she hastened to add.
Lord Ashford shook his head. “It amazes me that the citizens of London have such paltry lives that they’d care a groat what I did.”
“The provinces, too,” she added. “I have a thousand subscribers throughout the country.”
He threw up his hands. “Ah, that improves the situation immeasurably. I cannot fathom what my concern was.”
“As my paper states,” she said, “you are London’s most notorious rake. Of course people care what you do.”
He crossed his arms over his chest, a movement that emphasized that the width of his shoulders didn’t come from the work of a tailor’s artful needle.
“One might think that your readers would be far more interested in the food shortages that have resulted from recent crop failures,” he fired back. “Or perhaps they might be intrigued by the East Indian volcanic explosion. Maybe, just maybe, they’d be concerned with Argentina declaring its independence from Spain. Did writing about that, rather than reporting spurious gossip about a figure as inconsequential as myself, ever cross your mind, Miss Hawke?”
Though she was momentarily shocked that a man as infamously dissolute as Lord Ashford would be so well informed, she quickly recovered.
“I’d hardly call you inconsequential, my lord,” she countered. “Your family name goes back to the time of Queen Elizabeth. If memory serves, your ancestor Thomas Balfour won himself an earldom as a privateer to the queen—though others merely called him a pirate with a government charter. It seems as though scandal runs in your blood. How could the public not be fascinated?”
It was his turn to look surprised. He likely didn’t expect her to be so knowledgeable of his ancestry. But Eleanor was nothing if not thorough. She had Debrett’s memorized the way others knew their Bible verses.
“Because I am merely one man,” he answered. “Granted, a man with a somewhat extensive wardrobe—”
Of mistresses, she silently added.
“But hardly worth page after page of precious paper and ink,” he concluded.
“You belong to a gentleman’s club, do you not?” she asked pointedly. “White’s, if memory serves. And what do you do there?”
“You appear quite sober now,” she said, “and you always take your luncheon there. Given the hour, you likely were at White’s, then came here. As I cannot smell the reek of alcohol on your breath or person, I highly doubt that drinking is the only activity in which you engage at your club.”
“Ah, you have me figured out. In fact,” he said, lowering his voice conspiratorially, “I spend most of my time there plotting how to live off the blood of the lower classes.”
“I strongly suspect that if that had been your ambition, I and my commoner brethren would be drained dry by now.”
“Perhaps I need to strengthen my motivation,” he replied. “You’re doing a rather bang-up job of it.”
“What a proud day for me,” she said. “To have driven an earl toward thoughts of vampirism. But come now, you’re being deliberately obtuse. What else—besides imbibe and plot the agony of the lesser classes—do you do at your club?”
“Read the newspaper,” he answered.
Ah! Finally. “And for those gentlemen who haven’t the connections or wealth to be members of a club, there are always the coffee houses. They stock newspapers for their customers, too.”
“Perhaps it’s time to get a quill sharpener,” he said acidly, “because I fail to see your point.”
She came around her desk and leaned against it, so that a distance of only a few feet separated them. “My point, Lord Ashford, is that there are countless sources for the news you cited. Most of their offices can be found within a quarter mile of here. Those papers are for news. But The Hawk’s Eye provides something that the Times and other papers do not.”
“Paper for lining birdcages,” he said.
He gave one single, harsh laugh. “I ought to fetch the attendants from Bedlam, because you’re clearly in the grips of a powerful delusion. Like our own dear monarch, God save him. Shall I bring you a mitre and crook and declare you pope?”
She pressed her lips together. This wasn’t the first time she’d come under attack for her paper’s practices, but seldom by someone as articulate and intelligent as the earl. It didn’t help that he had a most distracting physical appearance. How could a man possess such a pair of spectacularly blue eyes? Like the glint of sapphires washed in autumn sunlight.
“It’s right here beneath the paper’s name,” she said, picking up an issue lying on her desk. “Consilium per stadium. ‘Guidance through observation.’ If you led a more moral life, you wouldn’t appear in my paper at all.”
He looked at her with patent disbelief. “What unbounded cheek, for you to judge me. You, who profit from feeding on carrion, like some quill-wielding hyena.”
Eleanor considered herself someone with a thick skin and a decent amount of composure, but for some reason, the earl’s words struck her with a strange sensation she hadn’t experienced in a long while. If she had to guess, it was a mixture of pain and … shame.
She quickly shook the feeling off. Shame was for those who could afford it. And she couldn’t.
“I don’t judge,” she fired back, “only report the facts as I know them.”
He snorted. “They aren’t facts. Just half-truths buried in terrible prose.”
“My writing is not terrible,” she muttered. “Have you read the Examiner lately? That is some execrable hack work.”
“And yet here I stand,” he said flatly, “in your office.”
“So you do. But, my lord, you may rail and complain and whine like a petulant child—”
“—but you’re a public figure. As such, that makes you fair game. The rest of the world lead fairly dull lives. We get up—”
“As do I.”
“Eat our breakfasts.”
“I do the same.”
“Go to work.”
Here, he was silent.
She continued, “Most of us cannot afford to go to the theater or gaming hells or have the social connections to attend private assemblies. But you can, and you do. You are what we all aspire to be, my lord.”
He laughed ruefully. “Perhaps you and your readers ought to set your sights higher. There are people of, how would you put it, far greater moral character worth mirroring.”
“Maybe so,” she answered candidly. “I can list dozens of men and women, all of greater purpose and ambition than yourself, that I would much rather see held up as an example to emulate. Teachers or philanthropists.”
He looked insulted. “I donate generously to orphanages and veterans’ assistance organizations right here in London.”
“Do you?” She should make a note of that later. None of her sources had ever uncovered that aspect of the earl’s life, but it would make for a surprising and rather delicious counterpoint to his rakish public behavior. It also spoke well of Lord Ashford that he did not attempt to make public his charitable endeavors. But it was rather easier to do her job if she didn’t think too highly of him.
“Regardless of the content of your character, my lord,” she went on, “you live a life only a minute fraction can ever hope to attain. As such, that makes you an object of fascination. And the truth of it is, you cannot stop me or anyone on my staff from writing about you.”
“A miserable fact of which I’m well aware,” he answered.
She strode back around her desk. “Then I believe we’ve said all we can to one another, delightful as this exchange has been. Good day, my lord.” She started to sit. “I’m rather busy, but I can have Harry show you to the door if you require.”
But Lord Ashford didn’t move. Stood exactly where he was, with his arms still folded over his chest. “If you are going to use me as your subject, the least you can do is proper research.”
She hovered over her chair. “Forgive me for not being Cambridge-educated, but I’m not certain what you are suggesting.”
Unfolding his arms, he braced his hands on the edge of her desk, leaning slightly forward. Despite the expanse of the desk separating them, she felt compelled to lean away.
“What I am suggesting, Miss Hawke,” he murmured, “is that you accompany me. Day and night. That way, you can see exactly what I do with my time. You see,” he continued, a slow smile unfolding, “I don’t want you to stop writing about me at all. I want you to get it right.”
Excerpts. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Eleanor Hawke loves a good scandal. And readers of her successful gossip rag live for the exploits of her favorite subject: Daniel Balfour, the notorious Earl of Ashford. So when the earl himself marches into her office and invites her to experience his illicit pursuits firsthand, Eleanor is stunned. Gambling hells, phaeton races, masquerades . . . What more could a scandal writer want than a secret look into the life of this devilishly handsome rake?
Daniel has secrets, and if The Hawk’s Eye gets wind of them, a man’s life could be at stake. And what better way to distract a gossip than by feeding her the scandal she desperately craves? But Daniel never expected the sharp mind and biting wit of the beautiful writer, and their desire for each other threatens even his best-laid plans.
But when Eleanor learns the truth of his deception, Daniel will do anything to prove a romance between a commoner and an earl could really last forever.
Meet the Author:
Eva Leigh is a romance author who has always loved the Regency era. She writes novels chock-full of smart women and sexy men. She enjoys baking, spending too much time on the Internet, and listening to music from the ’80s. Eva also writes in multiple romance genres as RITA-award nominated Zoë Archer. She and her husband, fellow romance author Nico Rosso, live in Central California.