Hi Erin and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Courtly Pleasures!
Please summarize the book for the readers here:
Married at fifteen, both Frances and Henry have a lot of growing up to do. Ten years later and nothing has changed except that Frances is miserable and determined to assert herself. She petitions her husband for a separation and joins the fabulous court of Queen Elizabeth and proceeds to find within herself a woman of worth. She even engages in an illicit dalliance at a masked ball…with her husband. From that point both Henry and Frances agree to a courtly flirtation as if they were strangers and all the hurt and neglect of the years was behind them. Their experiment with passion comes to an end when they are publically reunited and an enemy of Henry’s focuses on Frances.
In order for this to have a happily ever after, Frances has to believe she is worthy of love and trust that Henry’s feelings are true. Henry has to follow his heart instead of adhering only to duty.
Please share the opening lines of this book:
“Pray pardon, madam, but are you requesting a divorce?” The shock stamped so beautifully on Henry LeSieur’s face probably should have worried Frances. He never reacted, never felt anything. Instead, the brief evidence of actual emotion made her smile.
Please share a few Fun facts about this book…
- Frances and Henry Pierrepont (the inspiration behind the characters) really were married young and had several children together, many of whom died young. Frances’s tragedies were based on history.
- Bathing was not regular, even among the nobles, in sixteenth century England. Queen Elizabeth was thought to be engaging in an unhealthy habit with her monthly bath. Frances started out afraid of bathing and then became a convert to the luxury of it. Just for fun, I imply that her regular bathing (with the windows open) has drawn a crowd of voyeurs she knows nothing about.
- In the first draft of this book, I wrote all of the dialogue in Elizabethan dialect. The first editor that showed interest advised me to change it. I didn’t want to (at the time) but eventually did and am glad of it.
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?
Frances’s party planning skills happened organically. I knew she was going to be very practical and organized, but as the story unfolded and we worked our way toward the first masque, the fact that Frances was so instrumental in the planning was a natural progression of her character and not something I’d planned. As it happened, her sense of achievement and growing self-worth helped be that point where she comes into herself and a major part of her character arc.
Henry started out as the traditional romance novel alpha, but quickly became charmingly awkward when outside his comfort zone. It was hard for me to connect with the alpha, but the uncertain young man who just wants to do the right thing, I understand him and hope my readers will fall in love with him just a little as well.
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters and why?
I would use the dancing scene at the first masque, where Frances and Henry meet. Henry knows who Frances is, but he has changed so much she doesn’t recognize him. Much of their flirtation is carried out with the dance itself, the strictly choreographed movement giving way to something more.
… At this, she completed the spezzato cadenza to her left and changed partners, followed by Sir Harry’s scorching gaze. Still queasy with unease, she looked up and reveranced her final partner, Pride.
The tension in his jaw and taut cord of his neck framed by the courtly ruff gave the impression of a warrior pretending to be a courtier. It took her breath away.
“My lord, pray give me your name. I thought I knew all the players, but I am mistaken,” Frances said with a confident smile. As tall as Sir Harry, but more graceful and less brutish in his carriage, he was as dark as Kit Hatton was light. She had thought she was attracted to the idea that they matched, but the contrast flashed an erotic image to mind, her paleness pressed against him. Damn that book.
She bit her lip and swallowed against the warmth in her belly.
She found herself disappointed that he wore gloves. Still, heat pulsed through the supple leather against her hand, and he led her on the spezzati and passi to the right and met her eyes. “For tonight, my Lady Chastity, I am Pride. At this moment, I am proud indeed to have you upon my arm.”
His voice, deep and familiar, washed over her skin like a caress. His mask obscured most of his face, but she could see his dark eyes and thick fringe of lashes behind the peacock feathers and his full mouth smiling below the black velvet of his half mask. He was clean shaven, but Frances could see the dark undergrowth working its way to the surface. She had never kissed a clean-shaven man—even her husband had had a silly little beard when they had kissed at their wedding. She wondered if Pride’s lips would be as soft as they looked. Still strangely preoccupied with the idea of kissing, she found herself taking a larger step into him as they entered into the chorus where the partners faced each other in a circle around the other in a series of reprise. He shifted his body on the diagonal so that his cumbersome cod piece would not be a barrier and stepped so close that Frances’s bosom pressed against his chest.
At the unexpected contact, Frances took a deep breath of surprise, causing her chest to heave even closer against the velvet of Pride’s doublet. Being so close to him made it difficult to breathe, and her pulse raced setting an alternate tempo to the rhythm of the dance. She had never been so affected by a man. Still, not wishing to appear easily fazed, she finished her dance steps in this proximity—each up and down move of the reprise causing her breasts to shift against the silk of her corset. Doing her best to ignore the growing sensation, Frances met his eyes in an effort to continue the dance. Her breath caught in her throat as his gaze devoured her. He wanted her badly, and somewhere deep inside herself, she wanted him.
“Sweet Chastity, it would wound my pride to let you out of my arms without one chaste kiss. You can hardly deny me that.”
Pride lowered his head.
Fear and desire fought within her, and Frances pulled away, shaking, no longer dancing. Too late she affected a playful laugh and found her place in the choreography. Her heart still pounding in her throat, she joined back with Hatton as all the partners reveranced each other and then turned as one to face the Queen upon her dais in heaven and dropped down on one knee in salute.
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
As a woman, I want people to take away a hopeful heart about second chances and that love will work if you work for it. As a writer, I want my readers to fall in love with the Elizabethan world I’m creating and look forward to jumping back in to the costumes and dancing, the opulence and the intrigue, the courtly banter that covers deeper currents of emotion.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned for 2017?
I just signed a contract for the following two books in the Courtly Love series. Courtly Scandals is set over the twelve days of Christmas at court and features Mary, Frances’s more controlling and controlled gentlewoman companion. Courtly Abandon features Jane, Frances’s boisterous and sexually assertive companion, and is set back in the country at Holme LeSieur.
I am currently laying out a new series, also Elizabethan, that will begin with Frances’s younger sister, Elizabeth (who we meet in Courtly Abandon).
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: One epub copy Courtly Pleasures (Courtly Love Book 1) by Erin Kane Spock
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: I, personally, am glad for a time period that has flush toilets and penicillin. But, if you found yourself in the court of Queen Elizabeth with Frances and Henry, what sort of courtier would you be? Consider your daily life, your interactions, food, dress, flirtations…
Excerpt from Courtly Pleasures:
“I trust this morning has found you well.” Frances feigned a casual tone that she did not feel.
His mouth quirked in a half smile and, still holding her gloved hand, he leaned against the arched gatepost in the guardhouse kitchen garden. “I do very well and thank you for asking.”
She heard the humor behind the banal pleasantry and wondered if he’d ever shown that trait before. “You are welcome,” she murmured the expected reply.
Silence stretched, heavy with the weight of everything unsaid. Uncomfortable with the pleasant mask in place once more, Frances held her head high and did not wring her hands. Nor did she honestly smile or, well, anything. Proper, always proper.
“My lord husband,” Frances stiffened her spine and gathered her courage. Just like last night’s wine, it was better out than in. “How did I come to be in my room last night?”
“Were you truly that far in your cups? I didn’t know you had it in you.”
“Answer my question, please.” She held her ground, fists planted on the pleats springing from her hips. “And, yes,” she admitted, “I have never been drunk before, and it does not sit well with my constitution. I remember very little.”
A spark of an idea flared to life. Could she pretend she didn’t remember the kiss? Frances looked up to see him watching her.
“So, Frances,” why did her name sound so personal when he said it, “what do you think of court thus far?”
She watched his lips. “You shaved your beard.”
“You changed your hair.”
She raised a hand to her head and tucked a stray tendril behind her ear. She had known this man for ten years, laid with him, born his children—this should not be so painfully awkward. She turned away and walked to the bench at the far side of the garden, shooing a chicken out of her way so she could sit.
“Did you know it was me last night?” Henry’s words broke the silence once more.
“At the masque? No, I did not recognize you.” She resisted the urge to look back at him, to analyze the newly shaven curve of his chin for similarities to the husband she pictured.
“You flirted with me,” he continued, sitting beside her on the bench, crushing her skirts.
“I flirted with everyone. I’ve learned that is the way of the court. It would be strange if I didn’t.” She tugged on the fabric to no avail. “It means nothing.”
“You kissed me.”
She raised her chin and met his warm gaze. “No, you kissed me. I cooperated.”
His lips curved in a smile that hinted at a familiarity of years but seemed so new. “You liked it.”
She looked down at her lap and cleared her throat. “As you pointed out, I was in my cups. I did not know myself. It could have been anyone kissing me.” And that was the hard truth. She never saw, not really, the man she’d kissed. Given that, would anyone’s kiss have roused her the way it had?
“That does you little credit, wife.”
She snapped her eyes to his, his harsh tone snuffing out the building warmth in her belly. “Would it matter if I were to kiss another man? It was, after all, only a kiss. Those are traded about the court like sweetmeats.”
“It could have become more than a kiss very easily.”
“Really? You have me at a disadvantage in that, my lord husband. The first time I shared a kiss with you was on our wedding day. That kiss led only to breakfast. The other times were equally perfunctory, like we had a set of rules to follow. Kiss, couple, and good night. We never moved past the awkwardness of the wedding night. We were children then and never grew up. Not together.” And all of it, every experience wrapped up together, was nothing, nothing, like what she remembered from last night. The past kisses, past coupling, had been obligatory and unpleasant. Last night’s kiss was actually intimate.
Anger warred with wistful longing over what they could have had, at everything that their marriage was not. She wondered how the memories played out from his perspective. Had he been as nervous, as frightened, on their wedding night as she?
The only answer was the clucking of a hen as it worked its way around the garden at their feet.
“What?” her voice came out embarrassingly breathless.
“Whom you kiss.”
Again that blighted warmth blossomed in her center at the idea that he cared. She swallowed against it. “Why? Does it matter whom you kiss?”
“Me?” He laughed, actually laughed. “I do not go about court kissing ladies.”
It was her turn to laugh, a bitter sound. “I agree on that point. Baroness Sheffield is no lady.”
He raised a brow, that hint of mirth sparkling in his eye. “While I do not disagree, I wonder what makes you think I shared a kiss with Baroness Sheffield.”
“Now that I think on it, it was not a kiss that she said you shared. My mistake.”
“Upon my honor, I have had no relations, kissing or anything more, with Baroness Sheffield.” His affront faded into a smile. “Frances, are you jealous?”
“Jealous? Me? That would be unseemly.” She fanned herself. “I think that it is you who are jealous of whom I might kiss.”
“But you kissed me.”
“I had little say in the matter.”
“You will not accuse me of forcing your hand. You kissed me back.”
She nodded, unable to pretend she had not been a willing participant. Whatever happened next, she would hold dear that memory of strong arms, soft lips, and heat. In that moment, she’d known she was wanted, and no matter how drunk she’d been or what an arse her husband may be, God’s teeth, even the thought made her chest tight and her mouth dry.
She looked up to find him staring at her. His lashes, too long to belong on a man, framed a gaze so dark she couldn’t help but stare. “What?” She ran a hand over her coiled hair and straightened the pleated collar of her partlet. “Is aught amiss, my lord husband?”
Again, tingles ran across her skin at the sound of his voice. She couldn’t tell if it was fear or, what? Anticipation? He leaned closer, and she bit her lip.
“Please, Frances, I would have you call me Henry.”
“Henry,” she whispered, her gaze shifting from his eyes to his lips. Was he going to kiss her? He was! Oh goodness, should she let him? Her jaw tightened as she leaned away, back stiff and eyes wide. Wait, no—why not? With a worried grimace, she squeezed her eyes shut, puckered her lips, and waited.
Frances opened one eye to find him with his head cocked, regarding her with raised brows.
“What?” she asked, running a self-conscious hand over her bodice, her cheeks.
He smiled and asked, “Did you wish for me to kiss you?”
She straightened. Of course Henry wouldn’t kiss her. That would be the behavior of a lover, not a husband. Damn his pride—hers stung more than ever. “I pray pardon, my lord husband. I forgot myself.”
“No, my lord. We have never been familiar with each other, and I see no reason to change the nature of our relationship.” She stood and shook out her skirts. To think she’d wondered what he thought of her new gowns, her new role as a lady of the court. She would not care because he could not.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
What’s a neglected wife to do when her husband doesn’t know she exists? Create a scandal, of course, in this delightful Elizabethan romp.
After ten years of marriage, Frances LeSieur has faded into her role as a lady wife and mother. She has no idea who she is as a woman. So Frances joins Queen Elizabeth’s glittering court and discovers a part of herself she never knew existed—and one she’s sure her neglectful husband would never notice.
Henry has always done his duty to family and crown despite his own desires. When Frances asks for a separation then transforms into a confident and vibrant courtier, he’s floored—and finds himself desperate to learn what makes her tick, both in and out of the bedroom. After years of silent alienation, can he woo her back, or will he lose this intoxicating woman to one of the rakes hell-bent on having her?
As Frances and Henry come to realize that living is not merely surviving, can they create a second chance at love before it’s too late?
Sensuality Level: Sensual
Meet the Author:
Erin Kane Spock lives in Southern California with her husband, two daughters, an old-lady dog and a new puppy (that the elderly dog is not pleased about). She is a teacher and an active Irish dance mom. Find Erin Kane Spock online at CourtlyRomance.blogspot.com, on Facebook at Facebook.com/Spockromance, and on Twitter at @kanespock.