29 June 2008

Guest Blogger: T.J. Bennett

Today we welcome T.J. Bennett to celebrate the release of her debut novel from Medallion Press, THE LEGACY.

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THE LEGACY by TJ Bennett
When her brief, disastrous marriage to a fortune hunter ends in scandal, Baronesse Sabina von Ziegler's vengeful adoptive father imprisons her in a cloister. She arranges a daring escape and suddenly finds herself betrothed to Wolfgang Behaim, a tradition-bound printer from the rising middle class with a secret that threatens to destroy everything he holds dear.

As they fight to discover the truth of the mysteries surrounding the Baron's machinations, they find themselves challenged by a fiery passion they cannot resist. Can they overcome their past and find love even as lies, war, and an unexpected enemy conspire against them?
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Welcome to Unusual Historicals! So what's so unusual about THE LEGACY?

The setting and characters. THE LEGACY takes place in 1525, during the early Reformation period in theologian Martin Luther's Wittenberg, Electoral Saxony (now Germany). It uses the social and religious turmoil of the times as a backdrop for the story about a printer and the runaway nun he is blackmailed into marrying.

What led you to this setting?

TJ Bennett, author of THE LEGACYI loved historical romances, and when writing my first, I didn't want to use a setting that had been done many times before. I wanted to bring something new to the table. I was inspired to write this story when I came across a book entitled Martin Luther Had a Wife. The book described how the religious reformer met and married Katherine von Bora, an ex-nun. She and eleven other nuns engineered a daring escape from the convent and fled to Luther's doorstep in Wittenberg, asking for help in starting a new life. He helped them by finding most of them husbands or positions, and marrying Katherine himself. It got me thinking: What must it have been like for the other eleven women? Thus THE LEGACY, the fictionalized account of one of those other escapee nuns, was born.

How does the setting influence the story?

During the story's setting, the Peasant Revolution takes place in the German regions. This was the beginning of the rise of egalitarianism we later see in France's revolution as well as in the American colonies. Also, Gutenberg invented his printing press less than a century before. It made the written word affordable for the common man, and the German literacy rate among the lower classes was very high. And, of course, Luther hammered his Ninety-five Theses on the church door in Wittenberg, sparking the Protestant Revolution. All these threads are woven into my tale.

So tell us a little about your characters.

After Baronesse Sabina von Ziegler's vengeful adoptive father imprisons her in a cloister, she eventually takes vows. But nine years later, following the teachings of the reformer Martin Luther, she arranges a daring escape. She is free at last--for the moment--a noblewoman of conscience who has learned a lesson about trusting men she will never forget.

Wolfgang Behaim, burdened by the mysterious circumstances surrounding his father's death, has no heart for love. Yet he finds himself suddenly betrothed to Sabina, the Baron von Ziegler's adopted daughter.

It is a marriage neither wants. Sabina again finds herself imprisoned by the Baron, in a dungeon this time, being slowly starved to death. Her only key to freedom is marriage to Wolf. And Wolf must marry Sabina, or the murderous Baron will reveal the secret from his past.

Since we are continuing our month long spotlight on religious beliefs, can you tell us what role religion played in this book?

Well, since the split in the Catholic Church occurs during this time, religion is important to the story. I tried very hard to capture both sides of the issue. Wolf (a devout Catholic) and Sabina (a Protestant) represent those different sides, and deal with religion in the context of their lives. However, the book really isn't about the religious turmoil happening in their world, but rather about how ordinary people survive in extraordinary times, and how love lives on, despite everything. It's sensual, dark, sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant, but first and foremost a romance. I always tried to remember that.

Thanks for stopping by Unusual Historicals and telling us about your book!

Thank you, and let me invite your visitors to come learn more about THE LEGACY and its connected novel, THE PROMISE (May 2009), at my website. They can also participate in my June/July contest, read excerpts, and view photos on my gallery pages. I hope everyone gets a chance to read THE LEGACY and visit my site.

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Excerpt:

Wolf scowled at Sabina. "Why did you come? What do you want?"

He looked almost feral. His eyes glittered dangerously, and he had raked his hands through his hair. His doublet was gone, and he'd untied the strings holding his cambric shirt together; as a consequence, it gaped open to the waist. Sabina gawked at the skin it revealed and warmth flooded her. She realized belatedly what she was doing and jerked her eyes up to meet his.

"Forgive me," she said. "I did not mean to disturb you. You looked unwell, and I just wanted to ..." Her voice trailed off as his intent gaze traveled over her.

He appeared not to have heard a word she'd said. Nervous, she licked her suddenly dry lips, and his eyes flared with emerald fire.

"Sweet Jesu, what do you want from me?"

She heard the aching torment in his voice.

You.

For one horrified moment, she thought she had spoken aloud. She had not, but something must have shown in her expression because the mood shifted instantly, tightening into an almost unbearable tension.

As though she were naked, she could feel the heat of his hand against the curve of her waist. Her breath caught in her throat at the wall of solid muscle against her breasts, and she became intensely aware he was aroused. The realization made her pulse beat in a staccato rhythm, from fear or desire she knew not which.

They stood pressed together it seemed forever, while he debated whether or not to kiss her. She could see the argument going on behind his eyes, could almost hear him lecturing himself about the reasons why he should not.

She rose up on her toes and touched her lips to his.

Wolf, startled at first, quickly recovered. He lunged for her, his arms going like steel bands around her waist, his mouth devouring hers. She staggered backward, and he pressed her up against the wall, its unyielding indifference counterpoint to his fevered response. A painting behind her crashed unheeded to the floor.

For a lightning moment, she felt trapped. That old familiar fear engulfed her, but her heart whispered this man would not hurt her. There was no anger in him, no domination. In fact, it was as if he had surrendered to a need greater than his own will, a need so palpable it crackled in the air around them. He kissed her throat, her eyes, her lips.

Tentatively, she kissed him back, touching her tongue to his. He groaned into her mouth.

"Oh, God, I'm on fire," he rasped. He tugged her hand up, placed it on the hot skin over his rapidly beating heart. "Can you feel it, Sabina? I burn for you ..."

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Review links:

"T. J. Bennett has crafted a believable story.... The depth of the characters and their ever increasing desire for one another make The Legacy a most enjoyable read." ~ Novelspot

"THE LEGACY is an excellent read. Ms. Bennett has written characters you'll fall in love with. I highly recommend this book to everyone." ~ Wendy Keel, The Romance Readers Connection, rating 4 1/2

"Ms. Bennett has penned a fabulous story that will keep the reader glued to its pages; a vivid, intriguing, and fast-paced tale that grabs your heart from the beginning and keeps it to the very end." ~ Affaire de Coeur

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You can win a copy of THE LEGACY. Simply leave a comment or question for T.J. We'll draw a random commenter next Sunday, so be sure to check back and see who's won. Good luck!

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