FRIDAY FREEBIE: H.C. Brown’s ‘Charmed’
Friday Freebie with H.C. Brown
Tell us about Charmed:
Highlander Drew Mackenzie’s double life as a respectable gentleman and the notorious, smuggler, Le Diable Noir, comes into jeopardy the moment Lady Adrianna Beachwood’s father rejects him as a suitor. He devises an ingenious deception to meet her in secret by using his cousin, the respectable, Lord Rupert as a decoy. Nothing goes to plan and when the feisty goddaughter of George II is thrust into danger, her only chance of survival lies in the hands of her courageous and deliciously handsome Scottish warrior.
What inspired this book?
I love reading Highlander stories and became hooked on the genre after writing Highlander in the Mist. This type of historical romance was a new direction for me as a writer and as I love to write series it became the first book in The Mackenzie Series. I submitted the entire series to Luminosity Publishing and the release days are two weeks apart. Print versions to follow in one month.
Who are the main characters and why will we love them?
Highlander Drew Mackenzie, is a gentle alpha male, tough on the outside, deliciously handsome but with a huge heart. He is living a double life, a respectable gentleman/Laird in his time in London and as the notorious smuggler, Le Diable Noir along the French coast. He is a rake who falls head over heels in love with Lady Adrianna Beachwood, who as the goddaughter of King George 11 is unobtainable….but Drew is a very determined man.
Lady Adrianna Beachwood lives under the complete control of her father but she is feisty enough to slip away to meet her handsome Highlander and strong enough to outwit her father’s plan to marry her to a despicable French baron. She will risk everything to be by Drew’s side.
For you, what’s the best thing about Fridays?
Well until the series ends….Sleepy Hollow 🙂 then The Vampire Diaries.
What’s coming up next for you?
Betrayed (the follow-up to Charmed) was released on 22 October and Seduced on 6 November.
I have just finished writing an Australian Outback Romance Mystery, titled, Run. My next WIP will be a spin off story from the Mackenzie Series, for the character of Lord Rupert and I’m working on a Science Fiction Mystery Romance.
Highlander Drew Mackenzie’s double life as a respectable gentleman and the notorious, smuggler, Le Diable Noir, comes into jeopardy the moment Lady Adrianna Beachwood’s father rejects him as a suitor. He devises an ingenious deception to meet her in secret by using his cousin, the respectable, Lord Rupert as a decoy.
Nothing goes to plan and when the feisty goddaughter of George II is thrust into danger, her only chance of survival lies in the hands of her courageous and deliciously handsome Scottish warrior.
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Excerpt from Charmed:
She admired tall men and he was indeed the most stylish of gentlemen. His magnificent broad shoulders fit snugly inside a dark blue jacket nipped at the waist and worn over crisp ivory linen with an overindulgence of lace in the French mode. Her gaze drifted in wanton abandon from his expertly folded silk cravat tucked into a heavily embroidered waistcoat to his breeches cut tight enough to enhance his long muscular legs. Lifting her fan to hide her heated cheeks, she gaped after him. Rather than covering his head with a wig, he had queued his glossy ebony hair at the nape without one trace of powder, yet he certainly appeared to be a devotee to fashion by the cut of his cloth, and the expensive lace at his cuffs.Lady Adrianna Beachwood slid into the shadows masking the terrace, her attention captivated on the tall stranger bowing over Lady Bracken’s hand in the receiving line. At last, a gentleman worthy of my consideration. He straightened and bestowed a brilliant smile on his hostess before moving through the reception room in her direction. Sauntering past in elegant glory leaving the expensive fragrance of bergamot in his wake, he astounded her. Dangerously handsome and with the hungry countenance of a wolf, he cast a predatory gaze over the silk encased ladies gathering in the foyer. From the enthusiastic titters beside her and the flutter of fans in her periphery, his perfect proportions, and elegant form had attracted more than a few ladies devotion.
Her attention matched his swagger in the direction of the ballroom and entranced by his devilish countenance, she stepped into the hallway and followed him along the passageway. She picked up her step, but he sauntered straight past the ballroom without as much as a glimpse within and continued in the direction of the card room. Bother! Adrianna pressed her lips together and stared after him. Determined not to miss the opportunity to catch his eye, she cleared her throat. The temptation of a man stopped abruptly and turned to face her. His languid gaze traveled over her and as he inclined his dark head, the corners of his full mouth twitched into a secretive smile.
A booming voice, announcing the arrival of her father, broke the spell.
“Ah, there you are Adrianna. Why, may I ask do you find it necessary to dally so close to the card room? It is not seemly for a lady to be in close proximity to gamesters, my dear.” He moved to her side then his gaze slid past her and darkened at the sight of the handsome stranger. “Come along, I am sure there are more suitable gentlemen waiting to fill your card.” He offered his arm.
Annoyed by her father’s untimely appearance, she composed her features into a mask of disinterest, and rested one hand on his arm. “I noticed you in the company of Lord Somerton in the receiving room and assumed you would pass this way so I waited for you, Papa.”
His nostrils flared in disgust and he bent his head lowering his voice. His acid tongue lashed over her like a whip.
“You are not a girl on her first come out and should know better than to expose yourself to rakes and ne’re do wells.”
She turned to him aghast. “Oh, Papa, your worry is unfounded. To be sure, Lord Bracken would not allow scoundrels within a mile of Lady Bracken’s soiree.”
Her father raised both eyebrows and peered at her thoughtfully through his quizzing glass.
“Adrianna, your naivety astounds me. It would seem I will have to keep a closer eye on you this evening.” He tucked an errant curl into her chignon with unexpected skill. “Come along, I have arranged for a number of respectable gentlemen to make your acquaintance.”
A wave of heat crawled up her neck. Indeed, the delicious man had caused her pulse to race in an alarming fashion but with her father’s words, the hope of an introduction to the tantalizing stranger splintered into a thousand pieces. She forced her lips into a smile, raised her chin, and strolled into the lushly decorated ballroom. Moving through the crush, she made her way toward her usual bevy of friends. She inhaled to calm her nerves and wrinkled her nose in distaste. The delicate glass vases perched high upon alabaster podiums overflowed with roses but did little to disguise the foul odor of stale sweat permeating the stiflingly hot air. All at once, the room moved in and out of focus.
“Adrianna.” Her father’s voice cracked like a whip in her ear. “What is amiss?”
Flicking open her fan, she met his furious gaze. “It is very hot in here, Papa. Perhaps a cordial might help?”
Her father lowered his deep voice to a whisper.
“Very well. Sit down and for heaven’s sake do not make a scene. It is imperative you fill your card this evening.” He offered a congenial smile to the small group watching with interest and deposited her beside a matron. “I will go for some refreshment, Adrianna.”
Her heart sank at her father’s direction. She had little choice but to act the dutiful daughter, although the men her father had thrown in her path had become as boring as last week’s broadsheets. How am I to stand another evening like this? She gathered her wits and smiled. “Thank you, Papa.”
The usual old and uninteresting bread puddings of men approached to fill her card. Listening with feigned interest at their nonsensical dialogue, her thoughts returned to the handsome stranger. She swallowed hard and gazed at the group of hopeful suitors. God help her. From this night onward, she would compare all men to him, her phantom of delight.
The desire to catch another glimpse of him consumed her and she ignored the chatter. With effort, she pushed down the overpowering need to lift her skirts and dash back to the card room. She observed the men her father had selected as suitable and none of them cut a dashing figure or had the face of a dark angel. She hid a smile behind her fan forcing her attention to the conversations buzzing around her like a swarm of angry bees, but her thoughts slipped unrestrained to the card room and the temptation within. Good Lord, the man had taken up permanent residence in her mind. One look at him had bewitched her into a witless ninny.
The suffocating devotion from the group of balding, overweight, suitors was unbearable, and waiting for a convenient pause in the conversation, she stood. “Please excuse me for one moment, gentlemen.”
She moved through the crush and along the hallway determined to reach her destination by way of the card room. Lifting her ample silk skirts, she weaved through the crowd keen to glimpse the gamester’s retreat and the forbidden delights within. Remaining close to the wall, she slipped into the passageway, rounded the corner, and paused beside the card room door. She peeked inside and her heart raced. He sat at a table close to the doorway engaged in conversation with her host, Lord Bracken. From within, she overheard not a Parisian accent as she had expected from his attire, but a deep Scottish brogue as potent as the finest Scotch whisky.
“Aye, I attended King Louis’ Court less than a month ago. Du Court is not a man I would do business wi’ and he one of the most brutal men I have had the misfortune to meet. He takes great pleasure in decapitating his enemies and displaying their heads on stakes atop the ramparts of his castle.” He cleared his throat. “Not to mention the rumors abounding in respect of the suspicious deaths of his two previous wives. The man is a brute and ma advice to ye is to keep well clear of him.”
Lord Bracken’s deep voice came in reply.
“It would seem the rumors I overheard in Whites held some truth.”
She blinked away images of severed heads hoisted upon stakes and took a few deep breaths to calm her nerves. Conversation of such a distressing nature was not for mixed company to be sure. With care not to appear too interested in the contents within, she chanced another swift glance inside and she met a pair of emerald green eyes twinkling with mischief.
Breathless at the sight of him, she pressed one hand to her throat. Heavens above, not only had she caught the deliciously handsome man’s attention, but his gaze held an enticing offer of intimacy. Her face grew uncomfortably hot and she raised her fan in a vain attempt to disguise her response to him. Unable to look away from his intense expression, she lingered caught in his spell.
The stranger winked at her and his full tempting mouth twitched into a smile around a gold tipped cheroot holder. Her heart pounded and she froze caught by his sinful attention like a rabbit in a deadly dance with a fox. He lowered deliciously long black lashes, folded his cards on the table, dropped his cheroot into the ashtray, and pushed to his feet.
Anticipation prickled down her spine and her limbs refused the command to move. The stranger strolled toward her with an interested expression on his handsome face. Fighting against the overpowering desire to wait for him, she shut her fan, lifted her nose in a dismissive air, and proceeded along the hallway. His soft footsteps sounded behind her and his hand brushed her elbow. She should not stop but the exotic scent of him enveloped her and all good sense fled. Heart pounding with anticipation, she turned slowly to face him.
He stared down at her from a great height, his eyes a sliver of green beneath hooded lids. His gentle smile sent a tingle of awareness to the junction of her thighs. Dear God, he is magnificent.
“Your servant, ma lady.” He bowed. “I noticed ye were trying to get ma attention. If ye have something of importance to say to me. This is not the place. Would ye perhaps walk wi’ me in the garden?” He offered his arm.
Heat shot up her neck scalding her cheeks. Embarrassed, she bobbed a curtsy and averted her gaze. “I thank you, sir, but as we have not been formally introduced, I fear I must decline.”
“A formality easily remedied.” He bestowed a devastating smile upon her. “If ye will wait one moment.” He bowed and turned back toward the cardroom.
Moments later, he returned with Lord Bracken. Her father’s best friend gave her a long considering stare, sighed disapprovingly, and turned to the Scottish gentleman.
“Lady Adrianna Beechwood, may I present Drew Mackenzie from the Clan Makenzie at Badenoch?”
“I am your most obedient servant, ma lady.” Mr. Mackenzie bowed low over her hand and brushed his lips across her knuckles leaving a trail of heat then rose. “Now we have been formally introduced, would you, by chance have a space on your dance card for me?”
She lifted her gaze and fell into an ocean of glittering green. “I am afraid my card is full.”
He held her gaze and beside him, Lord Bracken cleared his throat.
“I am heartbroken but at least allow me to escort ye to the ballroom.” Drew sighed and offered his arm.
Unnerved by the overwhelming desire to melt into his strong arms and damn the consequences, she dragged her senses into a modicum of order, and smiled in her best coquettish manner. “Thank you.”
Her pulse raced with every step toward the ballroom. The crush opened like the sea for Moses allowing their passage. People stared and chits dropped open their jaws at the sight of her splendid companion. When they paused on the perimeter of the dance floor, he turned to face her and bowed.
“If ye are not spoken for, I would verra much like to call on ye, ma lady.” Mackenzie smiled warmly and met her gaze. “If ye would permit such a thing?”
“I must admit, good sir, you are an intriguing fellow and I would be most happy for you to call on me.” She smiled and made her curtsy. “I beg you to excuse me. I find I am late for the first set. Please accept my apologies for disturbing your game.”
Unnerved beyond reason, she brushed past him and pushed through the crush spilling from the passageway. The music had started for the first set, and to her relief one of her father’s elderly colleagues, Lord Winton, strode toward her, his ruddy cheeks dimpling from a wide smile.
“I believe this is my set?” Lord Winton bowed over her hand dispersing a shower of dust from his overly powdered wig. “May I have the pleasure of escorting you to supper this evening, Lady Adrianna?”
Smiling, she met his gaze. “Yes, I would like that very much, Lord Winton.” She gave him her curtsy and laid a hand on his arm.
Standing opposite her partner in the middle of the ballroom, she searched the crowd for Drew Mackenzie, and her heart squeezed at the sight of him. He stood out like a beacon at the edge of the dance floor with one shoulder resting nonchalantly against the wall. He smiled outrageously, then turned and vanished into the crowd.
Her stomach fluttered in an unnerving fashion. In truth, no gentleman had ever looked upon her with desire, after all, her brown curls and fuller figure usually attracted widowers. Indeed, he had caused an unfamiliar curl of desire to blossom inside her and she wanted to experience the thrill again. At last, she had caught a young man’s interest. Excited at the thought of their fortuitous introduction, she smiled and could not contain the enthusiasm in her dance steps much to the delight of Lord Winton.
“It is good to see you smile, Lady Adrianna.” Lord Winton’s violet-scented breath accosted her nose.
She inclined her head and fought back a giggle. “It is a delightful evening to be sure.”
To think a dashing young man was interested in her. At one and twenty, she could not afford to lose such an opportunity and making an effort to push his delightful image from her mind, she concentrated on the complicated steps of the dance but to no avail. His handsome face and intimate gaze continued to linger in her consciousness like a forbidden confection.
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