29 July 2010

Excerpt Thursday: Hope Tarr

This week on Excerpt Thursday we're welcoming Hope Tarr as she celebrates the release of MY LORD JACK from Carina Press. Hope is an award-winning author of thirteen historical and contemporary romances, including THE TUTOR, her latest from Harlequin Historical Blaze. She'll be joining us Sunday to talk about both!

Here's the description of MY LORD JACK:

Once a pampered courtesan in France, Claudia Valemont has lost her mother, her protector, and her lifestyle to the French Revolution. To avoid the guillotine herself, Claudia flees to Scotland to search for her only remaining relative: the father she has never met.

Instead she finds hardship and heartbreak. Penniless, she is forced to steal to survive. Her crime nearly lands her in the hangman's noose—until the hangman himself comes to the rescue. Pleading on her behalf, he gets her sentence commuted to a period of indenture in the village commons under his watchful eye.

Undeniably indebted to her unlikely savior, still Claudia feels more than gratitude--much more. As a harsh Scottish winter descends, her Lord Jack just might heal her wounded heart...

Former French courtesan Claudia Valemont can't believe her life has come to this: standing in front of a Scottish judge, sentenced to death for stealing a horse. She fled France to find her father and escape the guillotine. Now here she is, facing the same fate--alone, desperate and penniless.

"Hold! I will speak for her."

Burly Scottish hangman Jack Campbell takes pride in his work: serving justice and giving the condemned a quick end to their sorry lives. Why he spoke for that pale, hollow-eyed Frenchwoman he'll never know. But now he's stuck with her, assigned to be her keeper for six months' indenture.

Bound together by the rules of her sentence, Jack and Claudia learn to appreciate their differences. But as their wary affection turns to tender desire, secrets from the past threaten to destroy their future...

A bang of the gavel drove the point home and brought the room to order. "Let the rolls show that the prisoner, one Claudia Valemont, late o' Paris, France, is heretofore remanded to the custody of Master Jack Campbell, occupant of the office of Lord High Executioner to His Majesty, King George the Third, for a term of six months to begin this day and end the first Friday of April in the year of Our Lord 1794, when she shall be released once more into her own keeping." He looked up from the tome and addressed himself to Claudia. "Mark me well, mistress, for I'll say this but the once. Should ye run off at any time o'er the next six months and should ye be so unlucky as to be captured and brought back before me, the original punishment shall stand--ye shall be hangit from the neck until dead. D'ye ken me?"

The prisoner, Mistress Valemont, seemed to sway on her wee feet. "Y-yes, my lord."

For the first time during the proceedings, the judge's angular face relaxed into a smile. "Good, because ye've a verra pretty neck and twould be a rare pity to make me call upon Jack to stretch it."

The room exploded into raucous laughter punctuated with a hand or two of applause. Only three people stood without cracking a smile: the prisoner, her reluctant gaoler--and her accuser, Callum McBride.

Clenching his jaw, Jack turned his back on his brother and made his way to the prisoner's dock. Standing just outside it, Mistress Valemont held out her manacled wrists, staring down at them in a fixed, frozen sort of way while Pol, palsied and more than half blind, struggled to fit the key into the lock.

She looked up as Jack approached, and her blank stare slipped into a scowl. "I suppose I should thank you for saving my life, monsieur."

"Aye, I suppose you should." He turned to Pol and held out his hand for the ring of keys. "I'll have at it if ye dinna mind."

The old man turned the ring of keys over with a grudging air. "'Tis the wee silver one, third on the left," he said, then stumped away to greet his mate, Peadair, who'd risen from the benches.

Key in hand, Jack stepped forward. "If ye'll allow me, mistress..."

She hesitated, then raised her manacled wrists, a wry smile playing about her lips. "It seems, Monsieur le Borreau, that I have no choice."

Author photo by BizUrban.com