UPDATE: This contest will end September 25th at midnight! Enter now!
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Every fall I get swept away by the falling leaves and the bright colors and the crisp wind that smells of coming snowfall. There is something magical about the months of September, October and November. I lose myself in the celebrations and decorations of Halloween and there’s nothing better than reading a bunch of old vintage gothics. The spooky settings, the fog shrouded mansions and crumbling castles. I’ve read contemporary set gothics (set in the 50s and 60s) and I’ve read historical gothics too. It doesn’t matter when the book is set, so long as I get to lose myself in a story that’s full of that beloved atmosphere where mist hides tragedies and horrors and a dark sensual romance fills the pages.
One of my absolute favorite vintage gothic romances is The Shivering Sands by Victoria Holt which is about a woman named Caroline trying to find out what happened to her missing sister Roma. Setting out on a quest to find her sister, she starts out searching an estate where her sister was last seen. With a title like Shivering Sands, already the atmosphere is set and I have to know more about this mysterious place where even the sand is dangerous. As the heroine Caroline Verlaine finds out: “You’ve heard about the Sands, Mrs. Verlaine. Quick sands…shivering sands…Boats are caught in them and they can’t get off. They feel themselves held in a grip so fierce that nothing will release them…and slowly they begin to sink into the shivering sands.”
What is so moving about gothics, especially the vintage ones is the way they capture the reader’s attention with the style of language and transport us to a place of deadly mystery and wonder set against the backdrop of old haunted houses with brooding, dominating heroes that inspire our darkest fantasies.
I recently decided I wanted to write a “modern”gothic. Wouldn’t it be marvelous to take what was best about the vintage gothics and what’s great about new modern romances (like the super steamy love scenes), and combine the two? I had to admit it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever done and the voice was quite natural for me, since I’ve read so many of the old gothics. My story The Shadows of Stormclyffe Hall which releases September 29th, 2014 is the best of both worlds. I have dark, brooding hero named Bastian, an earl, and Jane, a feisty, intelligent American grad student clashing in a battle of wills as they try to find out why the earl’s castle is haunted by his ancestors.
“He was predatory, sensual, and powerful in his dark blue waistcoat, and knee-high black boots. Bastian’s ancestor looked every inch the earl he was. But it was so much more than that. Bastian and Richard could have been twins, the uncanny resemblance was so strong.” – The Shadows of Stormclyffe Hall.
Question for readers: What do you all like to read around Halloween? Do you like spooky ghost stories? Hot paranormals? Horror classics? Three lucky winners will receive a e-book of The Shadows of Stormclyffe Hall!
To defeat a dark evil, they must face his family’s past…
Bastian Carlisle, the Earl of Weymouth, doesn’t believe in ghosts. Even though tragedy and mysterious hauntings have driven his family away from his ancestral home, Stormclyffe Hall, he is determined to restore the castle to its former glory. His plans are disrupted when a stubborn American shows up on his doorstep hoping to pry into his family’s tragic history.
Jane Seyton, an American graduate student, is convinced there’s more to the tragedy of Stormclyffe Hall than history claims. Ever the scholar, she is determined to discover the truth, even if it means putting up with the arrogant, yet sexy, Bastian.
Although Bastian wants nothing to do with the pushy American, it soon becomes clear that something evil is in the house—and that something is targeting both Jane and Bastian. The two must join forces to purge the ghosts of Stormclyffe Hall once and for all—even as they try to fight a physical attraction between them that grows more and more impossible to deny.
“My lord?” Randolph prompted, which made Bastian realize he must have been silent for several moments. The shadows had him on edge. Perhaps it would be nice to have a bit of company, if only she wasn’t a bloody American. Given the rumors of ghosts and other such childish stories, most of the staff at Stormclyffe refused to stay overnight. Only Randolph and a few of the loyal staff from London remained after dark.
“I shall meet with her. She will not be staying here.”
Jane Seyton was sure to be like every other historian he’d met and probably as stubborn as one of the Queen’s corgis with a bone. Given half the chance, she’d run off to the nearest garden and bury his secrets where only she could find them. He didn’t like anyone having that power over him.
Well, he did have a way with women. If she proved too troublesome in getting her to leave, he’d simply seduce her. There wasn’t a woman born yet that would say no to an invitation to dinner if the Earl of Weymouth asked her. No doubt she was a lonely little bookworm, probably wearing spectacles and never been kissed. The idea was almost charming. He smirked as he headed toward the drawing room. If he wanted her gone by nightfall, she’d be gone and all it would cost him was dinner.
When he reached the drawing room and laid a palm on the heavy oak door, it swung open revealing the rich red-and-gold-papered walls and dust-covered furniture. He hadn’t had the chance to visit every room in the castle in the last seven months, since he’d been here sparingly, and he had definitely not been into this one. Randolph had been overseeing the cleanup of the rooms upon Bastian’s instructions and given the number of rooms, many had yet to be opened.
Personally, he had been avoiding this room because it was the only room in the castle where a portrait of Isabelle hung. His grandmother had said looking upon Isabelle’s face was bad luck, and since Stormclyffe had been abandoned for longer than he’d been alive, he’d never had the chance to find out himself if it was true. But now, seeing his ancestor for the first time…he was arrested at the sight.
There on the wall was the infamous woman whose swan dive off the cliffs had tainted his family’s lives forever. Bastian studied the portrait for a moment. A fair-skinned woman with a hint of rose in her cheeks gazed out from the layers of oil with serious gray eyes. Her pale blue gown molded to her curves, and waves of rich ebony hair tumbled down her shoulders to tease the tops of her breasts. There was a curious expression on her face. She was happy, but wariness lurked in the depths of her eyes, as though she expected to lose her joy at any moment.
Below the painting, a flesh-and-blood woman stood with her back to him. Windblown hair, dark as a raven’s wing, spiraled down her back in enticing waves. He had the sudden urge to thread his fingers through the silken strands and shape her full curves with his other hand. A curious burning settled deep in his bones, and a ringing filled his ears as visions of him pinning her to a bed filled his mind. Wild, erotic thoughts tumbled through him, stealing his breath before he regained control and focused on his visitor again.
As though she’d heard his lustful thoughts, the woman turned to face him, cheeks flaming. She couldn’t have known what he was thinking. His hand dropped from the door handle, and his jaw slackened in shock.
The dreamy gray eyes fixed on him were identical to the eyes of the woman painted above her. Noble, high cheekbones, curving brows, a sensual mouth made for kisses, and that nose, both delicate and impish, a perfect fit for the face of the woman before him. Her inky-black tresses and curves designed perfectly for a man’s hands made her a living memory of a woman centuries gone.
Dear God… He repeated the words in his head over and over, mesmerized by the closeness of their shared features.
“You must be Lord Weymouth. I’m Jane Seyton.”
The woman strode over to him, hand outstretched. Without thinking, he took it. Heat flared between them. He inhaled sharply.
About the Author:
Lauren Smith is an attorney by day, author by night, who pens adventurous and edgy romance stories by the light of her smart phone flashlight app. She’s a native Oklahoman who lives with her three pets—a feisty chinchilla, sophisticated cat and dapper little schnauzer. She’s won multiple awards in several romance subgenres including being an Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter-Finalist and a Semi-Finalist for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award.
Check her out at http://www.laurensmithbooks.com. You can follow her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/LaurenDianaSmith and on Twitter at @LSmithAuthor. Her blog is http://theleagueofrogues.blogspot.com.