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    A Shocking Delight
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Guest Blogs: You never know who will show up!


Karleen Koen on researching BEFORE VERSAILLES (comment for your chance to win a copy of this book!)

In one sense, I've been researching Before Versailles since I was a junior in college and ordered Nancy Mitford's handsome coffee table book, The Sun King, through Book of the Month Club. Does anyone else remember how exciting it used to be to receive a book once a month? The book interested the amateur historian who has resided in me since I was a girl, and I began to read other books about Versailles and about the three kings named Louis who occupied it. I found myself most interested in Louis XIV, so I read anything and everything about him for years: translated memoirs of the period, biographies, social historians' view of Versailles and the intricate court ritual that resulted from its golden cage atmosphere. When I began writing fiction, I was always interested in the story of Princesse Henriette of England (explored in my novel, Dark Angels) and in the true life relationships of Louis XIV and the women in his life. In fact, Dark Angels came into being because I kept trying but couldn't write my Louis XIV story. After Dark Angels, I realized the reason was that the story was too large. I had to focus down, as I had for the plot of that novel.

And so I chose a quite fascinating time in Louis XIV's life.....before Versailles came into being, when he had to decide what to do about a minister more powerful than he was and when he was falling in love again, not as a boy, but as a young man. The web of relationships to his brother, his brother's wife, his mother, the minister, his aide Colbert, friends, especially the Comte de Guiche, just intrigued me. When I knew the specific time, I focused in, researching deliberately that period of his life, extracting details I thought would interest readers because they certainly interested me. So I guess the way I research is to start out very broadly, roaming through a period on all levels: political and cultural, and then I work out a time frame.....the novel will begin here, end here.....and focus tightly within that frame. But I try never to let the research run the story, but rather, the characters and what they are facing and/or attempting to overcome.

I quite fell in love with Louis XIV at 22 in Before Versailles. I hope you will, too. And for those of you who are interested, Dark Angels is a "kind of" sequel to Before Versailles, only I wrote it first. Go figure.......


K A R L E E N  K O E N


Learn more about this book:

Karleen Koen's latest novel, a celebration of France's vibrant, young Louis XIV before he became the icon of the seventeenth century.

Listen to an audio sample.

Louis XIV is one of the best-known monarchs ever to grace the French throne. But what was he like as a young man — the man before Versailles?

After the death of his prime minister, Cardinal Mazarin, twenty-two-year-old Louis steps into governing France. He's still a young man who, as king, willfully takes everything he can get — including his brother's wife. As the love affair between Louis and Princess Henriette burns, it sets the kingdom on the road toward unmistakable scandal and conflict with the Vatican.

But there are other problems lurking outside the chateau of Fontainebleu: a boy in an iron mask has been seen in the woods, and the king's finance minister, Nicolas Fouquet, has proven to be more powerful than Louis ever thought — a man who could make a great ally or become a dangerous foe...


"This is a powerful rich telling of a few months in the life of King Louis XIV." Romance Reviews; Historical Novel Society Editors' Pick.


A big story about Louis XIV has been brewing since my second novel. A piece of all that intrigued me was used in Dark Angels. Here is another piece of the immense story that is his life.


Letter to Readers from Theresa Ragan

Letter to Readers

I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until I read my first romance novel in 1992. I spent the next five years researching medieval times and writing Return of the Rose. I was working full time and raising four children but I knew I was a writer when nothing could stop me from getting the words to the page.

Return of the Rose was written for busy women around the world, women who work full-time at home or out of the house…women whose job never ends because they are cooking, cleaning, taking care of kids, and they are in serious need of a few hours of escapism.

If you have read one of my books or plan to…I hope you enjoy and thank you!

Theresa Ragan


Readers are the Big Winners in the Ebook Revolution by Julie Ortolon

Kindle Edition available Amazon.comReaders are the Big Winners in the Ebook Revolution

If you’ve been reading romance novels for any length of time, you may have noticed the selection on the romance aisle has drastically changed over the years. Sometimes, I want to say, “Hey! Who stole my romance?” It’s not that I don’t like what’s being published now, because I do. It’s just I miss how the genre used to be. I want it all. The old and the new. And that’s why this new ebooks craze makes readers the big winners.

More Books

In the past, when a book went out-of-print, that was it. Game over. If a fellow reader raved about one of her all-time favorite reads and you wanted to read it too, you either searched the used bookstore or borrow it. That’s a sad thing for authors who make no royalties off used or borrowed books, but it’s sad for readers too. You couldn’t buy your very own, brand new copy. 

The good news is, I know a lot of well established, bestselling romance authors who are planning to re-release their out-of-print romance novels as ebooks. Now that’s cause to celebrate.

Lower Prices

Unlike the major publishers, most authors plan to keep their ebook prices really low. I’m guessing $2.99 will be the most common price point (due to Amazon restrictions against pricing them any lower). You also get to download a substantial amount of the book for free in a lot of cases. That way you can read several chapters before you commit to buying it. I don’t know about you, but I frequently read the back blurb and the opening pages, think I’m going to like the book, and plunk down $7.99 — only to grow bored by page 50 and put the book aside. Ebooks make that waste of money a thing of the past. 

Between the lower purchase price and the free samples, avid readers can save enough money to more than pay for the ereading device of their choice. They’ll actually save money in the long run. Plus, now that Barnes & Noble and Amazon had their price war over the Nook and Kindle, ereaders are much more affordable.

More Variety

Publishing trends come and go. I fell in love with romance novels in the mid ’80s and devoured those sweeping historical romances about pirates, cowboys, and knights. Then came the late ’90s, early 2000s, when contemporaries became the rage. If you’re not familiar with my books, that’s what I write: fast, fun contemporaries that Affaire de Coeur compared to “comfort food – spicy, warm, and absolutely delicious.” Now dark paranormals are in vogue. As I said above, I want it all. And I hear from a lot of readers who feel the same. So, why aren’t publishers putting out a wider variety of romance novels?

The economics behind that are complicated. Suffice it to say, publishers aren’t willing to take a chance on a novel unless they think they can sell tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of copies. That’s why Western romance, and many other sub-genres have vanished from the shelves. The audience isn’t big enough to make it profitable for a major publisher to put those books out in print — no matter how wonderfully written they are, or how much the devoted fans want them. 

Once again, good news. It is profitable enough for an individual author to re-publish or self publish romance novels for these niche markets.

That thrills me, and I hope it thrills you too. As both a romance author and a die-hard romance reader, I’m very excited about the future possibilities for our genre thanks to the electronic age.

About Julie Ortolon and Her First Ebook

Julie Ortolon is the USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance told in her trademark wit with a Texas twist. She is currently re-releasing her popular Pearl Island trilogy, featuring the exciting St. Claire siblings as they turn a dilapidated mansion – haunted by one of their colorful ancestors – into a thriving bed and breakfast. Falling for You, book one in the Pearl Island trilogy, is available in the Kindle Store at Amazon, or in all ereader formats from Smashwords. You can learn more about this award winning series at

Authors: Interested in learning more about converting their backlist to ebooks? Check out

Readers: How do you feel about ebooks? Are you embracing them? Clinging to your paperbacks? Or a little of both?




Guest Blog with Amanda McIntrye: Meet Grace (and special contest question at the end!!)

Purchase this book now!Meet Grace~

The term ‘best friends with benefits’ most aptly describes the relationship that Thomas and his third ‘muse,”—Grace, share through a period of many years. From the moment they meet, they were each other’s staunchest ally or worst enemy. They both wore passion on their sleeve, touting it like act of rebellion in the face of society; proudly they used it also as a shield to the baggage they carried deep inside.

Grace understood Thomas in a way that few of his friends--male or female—did. She understood his passion that made him feel alive and it was his unbridled zest for life inspired, mesmerized her. His charm was unparallel in that regard, drawing people to him like flies—especially women and poor Thomas, she knew suffered from a “damsel in distress” savior personality that would get him into trouble more than once in his life.

But the friendship was not without sacrifice. Though Thomas regarded her thoughts and opinions, something unheard of in that era, and welcomed her company on occasion, there were periods, like in most friendships, where Grace and Thomas lived in different circles, only the outer edges brushing by each other. Yet in his darkest hour, she is there, in his most triumphant, she is the reason, but Grace holds no delusions, she and Thomas are two of a kind, destined to never be satisfied with settling down with one person.

But fate awakens Grace to a startling reality. This ma, whom she has bullied, battled with and bedded, has taken root deep inside her heart, something which Grace, given her tragic past and her sorted life—never thought possible. The problem being that the realization of these fragile emotions were hers—alone.

Grace must decide whether she is willing to wait in hope that Thomas may see her differently than the caretaker-soothing his wounds, bolstering his ego, always there when he calls-friend…

Or, with the realization that she is not only capable of loving, bit worthy of being loved, will Grace move on when an opportunity presents itself to do so and start a new life in another place? 

The Master & the Muses-Excerpt; Grace befriends a drunken, belligerent Thomas after dinner guests leave~

      “Ah, Grace, you’re still here. This is a fine port, will you join me?”

      I’d been watching him all evening. His demeanor didn’t quite match the jubilant revelry of the others. “No, thank you. Don’t you think you’ve had enough for one evening?” I asked lightly, fully expecting him to ignore me. I picked up a plate two that had been left behind.

      “Leave those and come here. I need to talk,” he demanded.

      The tone in his voice led me to believe that he’d had more to drink tonight than what I could keep track of. “Just a moment, I don’t want to leave the scraps. The insects will have a celebration of their own." I smiled. He was behaving strangely and I should have probably left with the others, or asked William to help me get him to bed. I dipped the dishes quick into the suds, whisked the plates clean and dried them, setting them on the sideboard.

      “Grace!” Thomas bellowed.

      I dried my hands and slapped the towel over a chair as I emerged from the kitchen. “Thomas, it is late. You needn’t bellow, I told you I was coming.”

      “You are not my wife, woman, you are my muse.”

      “Your muse may I be, but I am not you slave, nor am I your wife to be ordered about.”

      He narrowed his gaze on me, looking very much a roguish pirate in that threadbare coat he insisted to wear. I made note to see about adding a patch on his left elbow the first chance I could get him out of it.

      “I’m in the mood to sketch." He slammed his glass on the desk, and the wine sloshed over, spreading over the lovely dark wood.

      Frustrated by his carelessness, I grabbed one of his paint cloths and wiped up the liquid before it could mar the wood. Thomas, oblivious to my endeavors was preoccupied, searching for his sketching papers and charcoal. I had dealt with my share of drunken sots in my day and drunk, this man, was. But why? He was not a prone to overindulgence in much of anything except flattering his ego. “Perhaps it should wait until the light of day?” I suggested mopping up his mess.

      He shook his head. “No, now. That’s what I pay you for, isn’t it?”

      “You are precariously close to insulting me, Thomas. I’ve a mind to leave you here and see if you fall off that balcony.”

      He laughed aloud. I loved the sound, even besotted as he was. Damn, it would be so much the better if he were an ugly drunk. He’d never before put me in a position of compromise, though there was a time or two I wish he had. That thought prompted my next words. “I should go.”

      “Oh Grace, don’t be like that." He walked toward me; his arms outstretched and caught me by my shoulders. “Are you afraid I might persuade you to do something you don’t wish?”

      I pinned him with a look. “I wouldn’t try anything,” I offered with a raised brow.

      His impressive dimple, an admitted weakness of mine, appeared on his handsome face. “Yet in your eyes I see you cannot resist me.”

      “Are you in the mood to sketch or flirt, Mr. Rodin. Which is it again that you pay me for?" I held his gaze, hoping her could not see what a tangle he had made of my insides.

      “Hum,” he muttered eyeing me. “Perhaps sketching might be safer.”

      “Where do you want me?" I asked as he picked up his drawing papers.

      “Oh, good god woman, watch that tongue of yours, for I surely have thought of it more than once this evening.”

      “You’ve thought of my tongue?" I asked as I walked to the corner where he kept the scattered pieces for props. “In what respect, Thomas?” I tossed back, with a grin over my shoulder.

      I heard a growl from behind. I stood and turned around to face him. His eyes had been pinned to my backside. “You’ve had too much to drink,” I stated flatly. “I’m taking you to bed.”

      He tossed the papers into the air, offering me a wide grin. “That’s precisely where I’ve been trying to get you for the past few moments, my muse! How delightful that you would simply offer.”

      I cast my eyes heavenward. “Come on, Casanova." I tucked my arm around his waist and guided him into the hall. Once I had him settled, I would stay in the guest room. I made a mental note to lock the door.

      “You are so good to me, Grace,” he said, swaying slightly when I let go to light the kerosene lamp by his bed. His hands rested on my shoulders, caressing gently. “Thomas,” I said quietly. His lips found the back of my neck and I fought the urge to like it. His fingers ran up the curve of my throat, his mouth following.

“I could be your lover, Grace. If only you would allow it,” he whispered, touching the tip of his tongue to the sweet spot below my ear. Only one or two men on this earth knew of that spot and it was because I’d told them. Thomas gravitated to it as if I wore a sign.

Giveaway question: What era of historical romance would you like to see more of?

May the wind be at your back~


They are his inspiration. He is their obsession. 
THE MASTER & THE MUSES JUNE 2010 “4.5 stars”~RT Bookreviews 
Follow me at TWITTER!


Meet Sara - Guest blog from Amanda McIntrye (reply to the giveaway question for your chance to win a prize from Amanda McIntrye!)

Giveaway Question: What do think the difference between passion and love is? Do you feel there is a difference?

Meet Sara~


She came to Thomas with a bit more determination about what she wanted. Refined, educated, home-schooled by a strict aunt and uncle with connections to upper crust society, Sara, lived in a world where daily she was shown what wealth good bring her. Yet, her options were severely limited unless she married into money and likely to a man much older than her, otherwise, she was destined to live out her days in the company of a man who might indeed have passion, but also dirt beneath his nails. Sara wanted it all-wealth, travel, notoriety, passion. And in her eyes, handsome, charismatic Thomas Rodin was her ticket to that world. She would give up everything for him, hoping to gain twice as much in the end, only to realize that when she thought she had everything--she really had nothing. Greed is a cunning seducer and Sara would soon find out that pursuing your dreams at the expense of others does not end happily.

It is not until she is at her lowest point, that Sara realizes the difference between passion and love. What she had mistaken as love was really passion perceived and what she found instead was love—quiet, unobtrusive, resilient—and thereafter discovered what true passion between a man and woman is. No money, no social standing could buy the comfort of a true friend and lover, one who would sacrifice everything if it would suffice to make her happy. And therein was the turning point for Sara, who came to realize there is a difference between want and need.

The Master & the Muses Excerpt-Thomas shows Sara his studio

      “What do you think?" Rodin asked as he lit the kerosene lamps around the room. Beyond the French doors leading to the small balcony, twilight was descending on London. There was the stench for the rivers mingling with the sharp smell of something in the studio. I wrinkled my nose and heard Rodin’s laughter.

      “That’s turpentine, Sara. Horrid at first, but a scent that you will get used to. Come, take a look." He ushered me over to a frame that stood on its own, on it was a fabric stretched over a wood frame. Beside that a small table with an array of pots of paints and several crockery jars holding more variety of paintbrushes than I’d ever seen. I reached out to touch the canvas and he caught my wrist.

      “Nothing touches my canvas, except me.”

      His eyes were steady and it took a moment to realize the gravity of my near mistake. I nodded.

      “Otherwise, feel free to explore at will. I have a small library downstairs. I believe you mentioned that you read. Any of the volumes are available at your leisure, when you aren’t working." He smiled and continued as if nothing had happened. “There are three bedrooms and a bath down the second floor hallway. The kitchen is over there,” He pointed to the corner of the large studio room. “Through the butler’s pantry.” He turned in a circle as if observing his domain. “We took out a wall dividing the room to allow for the light from both sets of balcony doors. I quite often entertain the brotherhood—at strange hours of the night, you should be warned. Do you cook, by chance?”

      “A little,” I replied a bit unsure about what I was getting into.


      “Well, yes, as a matter of fact, my aunt…”

      “Splendid! I’ll make sure that you have all that you need to make those straight away.”

      “Are you hiring me to cool or to model, Mr. Rodin?” I asked. Cooking and cleaning was not what I had in mind.

      He cocked his brow in question. “Miss Cartwright. Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear. I entertain my brothers, sometimes with little notice and as you might guess to hire a full time cook would seem a waste. The brotherhood thrives on a communal sharing policy, Miss Cartwright. Therefore, your talents in cooking as well as being a muse will be utilized. Besides, you wouldn’t want my cooking, I assure you.”

      “As such, you may also, from time to time, be lent to one or two of the other artists in the group,” he stated matter of fact as he poured himself a glass of port.

      He held the bottle up in silent invitation and I shook my head, offering a polite smile, which didn’t seem to bother him a bit.

      “I am delighted to see your bags, assuming then that you will be staying in residence?”

      He paused and waited for my response. “I won’t take up much room.”

      He chuckled. “My dear, you’ll have your own room. My former model, as it happens has left an opening. You’ll take her room and share the bath with whoever happens to be here.”

      “Do you live here?" The words blurted out before I realized what I’d said.

      “For the most part, yes,” he replied.

      He was apparently less concerned than I about my forward question. I’d taken him up on his offer to explore, walking slow around the parameter of the room, studying the pictures on the wall, and the artifacts from countries far away. “Do you travel, much, Mr. Rodin?”

      “Me? No, I’m rather a homebody I fear. Most of those trinkets have come as gifts from my brothers and my peers. I have some very well traveled friends whose interests lie in learning more about the world beyond these walls in order to find their inspiration. I like my creature comforts I guess, preferring to stay right here and focus on the painting and the person I’m painting, to find my inspiration.”

      I found a stack of canvas sketches leaning against the wall and I bent to thumb through them, surprised to discover the sensuality displayed by the models. One such sketch was a woman partially reclined on a lounge chair, with but a throw covering her lower half. She held a feather in her hand and her gaze was fixed on the artist. He’d captured every detail of her full breasts, the slope of her belly, and the swell of her hip. I was mesmerized by how her sexuality came through on the canvas, and too, how natural she looked. “Who is she?” I asked, sensing him now standing at my side.

      “One of my very first models, her name was Cozette. She was an acquaintance of my aunt. A lovely girl, but harbored a great many secrets.”

      “Where is she now?”

      He chuckled. “Making some gent enormously happy, I imagine. The woman possessed a fiery passion.”

      I eyed the woman wondering what it is that Thomas Rodin saw in me. “Do I possess such passion, Mr. Rodin? Will you have me pose as she did, in her all together?" I was intrigued with imagining myself in such a decadent pose.

      Thomas stood very close, the scent of his skin, exotic and titillating as before to my senses. I felt his fingers brush my cheek and turned to face him. His eyes darkened as he trailed his fingers along the curve of my neck. My body reacted instantly to his touch, my breasts puckering, rubbing against the rough fabric of my corset.

      His penetrating eyes held mine, his fingers traveling light over the front of my jacket. With a flick of his fingers, he’d undone the button holding it in place and brushed it off my shoulders. With patient ease, he drew it from my arms and placed it aside, taking a step back to study me from head to toe.

      “It takes a special woman to sit for an artist, Sara. The trust between them is an intimate bond.”

      He cupped my face in his hands, his thumbs drawing delicately over my mouth, my eyebrows, and forehead.

      “I can see you are exceptionally beautiful Sara and gifted, I think in the ways of passion, though I daresay you have much you can yet learn. Yet, I see a hunger in your eyes, Sara. One that I find most appealing, if not inspiring, me to…greater things.”

      He tipped his head, studying me.

      “Have you ever considered wearing your hair down?”

      His eyes held mine as he slid his fingers into my hair, jostling it from its coil, causing it to sway, threatening to come undone. I placed my hand on his, interfering. “I only wear it down when I retire in the evening, Mr. Rodin.”

      He smiled, slow and with a hint of danger that caused a sinful shiver to rush over my flesh. “Of course, that gives me something to look forward to, my muse.”

      He stepped away. “Do you like adventure, Miss Cartwright, the theater, does that appeal to you?”

      “I adore the theater, Mr. Rodin. As to adventure, I’ve not much, but I am not adverse to the idea.”

      “It’s settled then, to celebrate your new position, I’m going to take you to a special place tonight--one of London’s premiere theaters. I promise it is like nothing you have ever seen." His eyes danced with excitement.

      “At his hour?” I asked surprised by his quick turn of conversation.

      “The night is still young, Miss Cartwright. Come." He grabbed my jacket and held it for me as I put it back on. I tried to take his sudden whim in stride. After all, I was embarking on a new life, why should I not embrace it? 

Giveaway Question: What do think the difference between passion and love is? Do you feel there is a difference?

May the wind be at your back~


They are his inspiration. He is their obsession. 
THE MASTER & THE MUSES JUNE 2010 “4.5 stars”~RT Bookreviews 
Follow me at TWITTER!