Wednesday, February 8, 2017

**GIVEAWAY** Interview Showcase The Duke by Kerrigan Byrne

I'm happy to invite Kerrigan Byrne to the blog to chat about her new St. Martin's Press release, The Duke which received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly and Kirkus.
Her publisher is also sponsoring a giveaway, Yay! Details below


ISBN-13: 9781250118240
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: 2-7-2017
Length: 384pp
Buy It: B&N/Amazon/Kobo/IndieBound/Audible

He's noble. notorious. And takes no prisoners...
Strong as a Viking. Handsome as Adonis. Rich as Midas. Collin "Cole" Talmage, Duke of Trewyth, is the stuff that legends are made of. He's the English Empire's golden son--until fate has its way with him. Cole's family is killed and his closest comrade betrays him on the battlefield, leaving him gravely injured. But Cole is not one to dwell on misfortune. He is a man of duty, honor--and desire. And now he's ready for the fight of his lifetime...
Imogen Pritchard is a beautiful lass who works in a hospital by day and as a serving maid at night. Years ago, when she was young and penniless, she ended up spending a scandalous night with Cole, whose tormented soul was matched only by his earth-shattering passion. Imogen entered a marriage of convenience—one that left her a wealthy widow—but she never forgot Cole. Now that her long-lost lover has turned up in her hospital, injured and with no memory of her, Imogen is torn: Is it a blessing or a curse that their past remains a secret to Cole, even as his new passion for her leaves him wanting to protect and possess all costs, in The Duke, the next Victorian Rebels novel by Kerrigan Byrne.

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Read an excerpt courtesy St. Martin's Press:


London, February 1876

Imogen Pritchard shuddered as the fine hairs on her body prickled with alarm. The usually oppressive atmosphere of the Bare Kitten Gin and Dance Hall turned electric with danger, charging every nerve in her body with the awareness of an advancing predator. After placing her armful of empty ale and gin glasses on the sideboard, she palmed a knife from the utensil bin, concealing it in the folds of her skirts as she turned to face the threat.

A cadre of scarlet-clad soldiers filed through the door, their lean, young bodies taut with masculine restlessness. Their eyes gleaming with feral hunger. They reminded Imogen of a roving pack of wolves, licking their chops and smiling their sharp-fanged smiles in anticipation of a macabre feast.

Since she’d been forced to work at the Bare Kitten, Imogen’s instinct for peril had been honed as sharp as the sabers hanging from the soldier’s waists. And these men, these young wolves, were on the hunt for trouble, only waiting—straining—to be unleashed by one affirmative gesture from their alpha.

As dangerous as they might prove to be, she knew at once that the young soldiers, now fanning into an arc, hadn’t been the source of her internal alarm.

Their leader had.

He was a point of disturbing quietude in their chaotic energy. He rose head and shoulders above them, looking down upon all in his path by the sheer necessity of his towering height. His was the iron fist that held them in check. His was the will upon which they lived or died. His was the command they executed without question.

And well he knew it.

Imogen couldn’t remember glimpsing such a haughty brow before, nor such astonishingly handsome features. The structure of his face would have been ideal fodder for the Greek sculptors. They’d have used their most precise tools to carve the aristocratic features, almost perfect in their symmetry, from only the best stone. Her fingers tightened around the knife, though they itched for her paintbrushes. She’d paint his long body in great, rigid strokes and broad, bold lines.

A stab of recognition pierced her. She’d seen him somewhere before, surely. Normally, a unique color palette such as his would have clung to her memory. It was as though God had sculpted him out of precious metals. His skin was brushed with a golden hue, his hair shone with a darker, more phosphorous accumulation of bronze, and his eyes, too luminous to be brown, gleamed in the dim lantern light like two smoldering copper ingots as they surveyed every shadow and nook of the great room.

That gaze landed on her and didn’t waver for an uncomfortably long time. His expression never changed from stony and assessing. Though something about the strain between his eyebrows, and the slack in what must have been a normally rigid jaw painted the hint of an emotion that bewildered her.

Was he … exhausted? Or sad?

As Imogen struggled to breathe, she became quite certain they’d never met before. She’d have remembered sharing the same room with him, let alone being introduced. And yet, she’d had a chance to admire the sharp, patrician nose. She’d traced the barbaric cheekbones and wide, square jaw that created the perfect frame for the acerbic slash of his hard lips.

But where?

Beneath the weight of his unrelenting stare, she found herself identifying with the deer chosen by the alpha to cull from the herd and take to ground. Retreating, she turned on her heel and almost ran into Devina Rosa.

Mierda, but it’s going to be a long night,” she complained, tossing her sable curls and knocking back someone’s half-finished gin. Imogen had never been certain if Devina was her real name, or merely what the Spanish harlot called herself.

“Aye, it is at that.” Heather, a freckled buxom Scotswoman, agreed while adjusting the line of her bodice to reveal more of her generous breasts. “I know men with their marching orders when I see them. They’ll try to fuck their fear into us tonight.”

“I’ll fetch extra oils.” Devina sighed.

“And I’ll get them drunk,” Imogen offered.

“See that ye do, Ginny.” Heather called her by the moniker she used while working in this house of ill repute. “Make yerself at least somewhat useful.”

Imogen barely registered the bitterness in her words anymore. She knew many of the girls didn’t at all like the understanding she’d forged with their proprietor, stipulating that she didn’t have to spread her legs as they did.

“If we’re lucky, a few of them will be afflicted with the Irish curse and we can still get our money off of ’em,” Heather mused.

“You mean del Toro will get our money.” Devina spat and cast a mutinous look at her pimp, and the owner of the Bare Kitten, who had to turn sideways to avoid knocking over chairs and patrons in his exuberance to welcome the newcomers.

The women only dared to make soft murmurs of displeasure, lest he overhear.

“What’s the Irish curse?” Imogen whispered her query to Devina, who barked out a very indelicate chortle.

“It’s a dead-drunk cock, ye daft cow,” Heather answered for Devina with a melodramatic roll of her eyes. “It’s when they’ve had too much so trying to tup them is like trying to stab someone with a rope, ye ken?”

“Yes,” Imogen muttered, blushing furiously. “Your explanation is quite sufficient, thank you.” She dared a glance at the soldiers, who followed Ezio del Toro’s corpulent frame to the corner reserved for only their most important guests. Frowning, Imogen wondered what for. An Italian immigrant, del Toro had no fondness for men in any kind of uniform, nor was he particularly patriotic.

Why then the special treatment?

Del Toro plucked Flora Latimer as she sashayed by, proudly advertising the abundant flesh she had on display. Her eyes widened in astonished increments as he breathed orders into her ears. By the time he’d finished and shoved her toward the sideboard where Imogen and the others lingered, she resembled a big, blue-eyed owl.

“You’ll never guess ’ew just walked in,” she tittered, flushed with excitement. “Though what ’e’s doing in Soho, I couldn’t begin to imagine. Don’t get much of ’is like ’ere.”

“Spit it out, ye crooked whore, we’re not about to be guessing,” Heather demanded.

“See that one there?” Flora pointed at the officer who folded his long frame into a chair at the head of the table. “The tall one wot looks like a fallen angel?”

They all nodded, not wanting to interrupt her long enough to point out that a man such as he was impossible to miss.

“Well, your eyes be feasting on Collin sodding Talmage, fresh from the funeral of his father and brother. Del Toro tells me ’e’s leaving at dawn for his final service to the crown before ’e returns to take ’is seat as the Duke of Trenwyth.”

Of course. That was why he’d been so familiar. His story was inescapably sensational. His father, the late Duke of Trenwyth, his mother, the duchess, and their heir apparent, Robert, had all been killed when a locomotive derailed near the French Alps, leaving behind their second child, Harriet, and their youngest, Collin. His likeness had been on the front page of every paper and periodical for a week. Lord, but they’d never done him justice, hadn’t been able to capture the potent masculinity that draped like a royal mantle from his wide shoulders.

And a royal he nearly was. Some distant Hanoverian mixed in with an ancient family from Cornwall, directly related to their own dear Queen Victoria. It certainly made sense that he’d descended from those fierce Germanic barbarian hordes that kept Rome at bay so long ago. She could see it in his bone structure, in the way he surveyed his surroundings, as though he’d already conquered them.

He’d looked at her like that.

Furthermore, she’d been right. It was sadness she’d glimpsed on his features. A sadness he valiantly concealed.

“No time to dawdle.” Flora bustled them in the direction of the table. “Del Toro said it’s all hands on deck tonight, and that every man at that table must leave ’ere feeling like it’s ’is birthday. Especially His Grace, as ’e’s footing the entire bill.”

Simultaneously, the women turned and checked their reflections in the gilded mirror above the sideboard. Even Imogen adjusted her dark wig and made certain her lip rouge was fresh and even. It didn’t really matter what she looked like, so long as she kept the drinks coming. She wasn’t a prostitute, only part of the serving staff, someone to look at, someone to sneer at and grope, but never anything beyond that.

Such was the deal she’d struck with del Toro, that she work at night in the Bare Kitten for as long as it took her to pay off her late father’s gambling debts. She toiled here, even handing over her gratuities to the loathsome man, and then kept her mother and younger sister, Isobel, housed and fed with her job as a nurse at St. Margaret’s Royal Hospital.

“Ye heard her.” Heather dug her elbow into Imogen’s side hard enough to cause her to stumble forward. “Stop yer lollygagging, and get them ready for us.”

Imogen snatched an empty tray from the sideboard and clutched it to her middle, feeling the need for whatever scant protection it would provide.

She wound her way to the bar, where Jeremy Carson already had one pitcher of ale waiting, and was filling the next. At twenty or so, he was only younger than her by a few years, so Imogen felt guilty that she always thought of Jeremy as a boy rather than a man. His face, while clean, achingly young, and earnest, didn’t at all match his scouse accent, which hailed from the Liverpool docks. “Looks to be a night to remember, in’nt Ginny? A duke in here and all.”

“I can’t believe it, myself.” She placed the pitchers he provided and a stack of clean glasses on her tray. If she appreciated one thing, it was Jeremy’s cleanliness and attention to the needs of her customers.

“What do you suppose a man like him orders to drink?” the barkeep speculated, flashing a conspiratorial smile full of crooked teeth that made him seem even younger.

Even on the worst day at the Bare Kitten, Imogen found it impossible not to return one of Jeremy Carson’s smiles. “I’m about to go discover that very thing.”

“Well, you take care around them tonight, Ginny,” he warned with uncharacteristic gravity. “They say soldiers are to be feared and respected, even among those they protect.”

Imogen didn’t know who’d said that, as she’d never heard the saying before, but as she threaded through the sparsely occupied tables toward the duke and his rowdy compatriots on legs made of lead, she knew the truth of it.

Trenwyth adopted an expression of sardonic amusement, but rarely participated in the masculine conversation. Though she approached from his periphery, he glanced over at her the moment she moved, and didn’t look away. His intense regard turned the innocuous walk from one side of the hall to the other into a perilous, heart-pounding journey.

She only stumbled the once before she reached them, almost upsetting her tray. Cheeks burning with mortification, she placed herself between Trenwyth and a black-haired Scotsman who would have been handsome but for the cruel gleam in his marble-black eyes. She meticulously poured the ale, avoiding the awareness of the duke as he watched her in complete silence.

That accomplished, she opened her mouth to address them—him—and froze, her mind seizing in panicked fits and groping for her memory. Anyone in service worth the starch in their skirts knew to address the person with the highest rank and work their way down the line. But just what title should she use for Trenwyth? A duke was the highest peer of the realm not in the direct line of the royal family. They were generally addressed as Your Grace. When in uniform, a soldier’s rank often superseded any other title, but Trenwyth’s uniform frock coat was like none she’d ever seen before. The dominant color black, rather than the traditional scarlet, and red only adorned the sleeves and high collar. He had no hat with him to help her to guess. The stitched braiding about his cuffs and shoulders was intricate and fine and utterly foreign to her. He could have been anything from a captain to a colonel and she had no sodding idea which.

“Better ye close yer mouth, love, unless ye’re advertising yer services,” the dark Scot drawled. “In that case, we appreciate yer eagerness, but we’d like to drink first, if it’s all the same to ye.”

Imogen snapped her mouth shut so hard she worried that she’d cracked a tooth as the dozen men surrounding the table guffawed at her expense. A tremor of misery clutched at her, and she chased it away with the brightest smile she could possibly muster and aimed it at Trenwyth. He, at least, wasn’t laughing.

“What—what would you like?” was all she could manage.

“What are you offering?” His question landed in her belly like hot coals tumbling out of the hearth. His mouth didn’t move much when he spoke, his voice barely above a murmur, but the register was of such depth and resonance that it vibrated through her, spearing her chest with the duplicitous meaning.

Again she found herself without words or breath.

“No punch, sherry, brandy, or port at the Bare Kitten,” the Scot answered for her. “Only the best ale brewed this side of the Thames, gin, absinthe, and whisky. A place for a real man, not a gentleman. But what they lack in their variety of alcohol, they more than make up for in their assortment of other vices. Is that not so, lass?” A sharp pinch of her backside brought a gasp and the prick of tears behind her eyes.

Imogen turned and placed her tray in between herself and the Scot, baring her clenched teeth at him in what she hoped del Toro interpreted as a smile. “It is indeed, sir,” she said stiffly, eyeing her astute employer as he glared daggers at her in a warning to behave.

This was turning into a disaster, she could feel it.

“Ye can call me Major Mackenzie, and that’s not just a title, it’s a promise.” He cupped himself lewdly as the table erupted with hilarity. “One that will be verified later when ye are unable to walk.”

Imogen’s breath whooshed out of her in a great gasp when she was abruptly seized around the waist. She lost her feet from beneath her and fell backward, panicking as she was pulled down onto Trenwyth’s knee, landing in a heap he controlled with his immense strength.

This seemed to greatly entertain everyone at the table except, of course, for Major Mackenzie, whose features tightened with mutiny.

Instantly she became rigid, preparing to spring back to her feet and retreat to the safety of the bar. She’d done it before, and used a limp, boneless sort of squirming to avoid the grapple of many a drunkard.

But none as big as this, none so intensely solid and unyielding.

“Don’t. Move.” The hard command froze Imogen in place, and she brought her chin to her shoulder, looking up in slack-jawed astonishment to assess just how much danger she was in from Trenwyth.

His eyes lit with perilous fire, the copper glowing in the forge of his temper, but he didn’t spare her a glance, nor did he speak another word. His unflinching stare captured and held that of Major Mackenzie’s with silent dominance. The air thickened, threatening to smother her in masculine challenge. Muscles tensed beneath her, around her, until she feared if he flexed any further, she might be crushed. Imogen held absolutely still, careful not to draw the notice of these two wolves, lest they rip her in half.

Major Mackenzie was the one to break eye contact, glancing down at the table.

Trenwyth’s arm about her waist relaxed, but he didn’t release her. “I’ll have whisky.”

“A whole case ought to do it,” a young lieutenant with a dark but sparse mustache chuckled. “It’ll at least whet our appetites for other pleasures the night may provide.”

Imogen nodded and hurried to stand, finding herself pulled tighter against the duke. Her legs were braced on either side of his knee, her back ramrod straight, straining to keep her body away from his torso.

“In order for me to fetch your drinks,” she began gently, “you’ll have to let me up.”

After a silent pause, he made a derisive sound from behind her, and the sweet-apple smell of brandy drifted to her from his breath.

He’d already been drinking.

Instead of letting her go, he gestured to del Toro who hovered at a discreet distance and hurried over as fast as his short legs could heft the rest of him.

“We’ll have your finest whisky. As many bottles as it takes.” This elicited hearty delight from his men.

Imogen could see del Toro counting his profits in his head. “We’ve just received a case of Ravencroft’s famous Scotch.”

“Make mine gin,” Major Mackenzie snarled. “I’d rather drink fetid water from the Thames than another drop of Ravencroft Scotch.”

“I say, Hamish, old boy.” The mustached lieutenant addressed the major. “Isn’t Ravencroft a Mackenzie?”

The major said nothing, though his knuckles turned white with strain.

“That’s right, Thompson,” another soldier heckled. “Marquess Ravencroft, the Demon Highlander, himself, is Hamish’s younger brother.”

“Younger brother?” Thompson lifted his eyebrows in surprise. “That would mean you’re—”

“A bastard,” Hamish finished darkly. “Want to find out just how much of a bastard I can be?”

“Enough,” Trenwyth clipped quietly, the command effectively ending all conversation. “Scotch for the table, and a gin for my friend the major.”

Hamish threw a grateful, if brooding, glance at Trenwyth from beneath his dark brows. The tension dissipated as Imogen was forgotten by the surly, middle-aged Hamish Mackenzie.

“We can only afford the younger Scotch, mind you, but it’s yours for the taking, as is anything else my establishment can offer you.” Del Toro gestured at the women posing across the bar with far more practiced and inviting smiles than hers aimed at the men.

“Excellent.” Trenwyth’s brusque way of speaking appealed to Imogen, though she couldn’t say why. “It seems the lads are eager for companionship.”

Murmurs of enthusiastic agreement passed around the table as the famous “kittens” of Lower St. James’s Street wound their way to the table with audible purrs. To Imogen’s surprise, Heather gave Major Mackenzie a wide berth and look of reluctance, choosing to lean across a young man on the opposite side of the table. Imogen couldn’t think of a time she’d truly seen the bawdy woman afraid before. Major Mackenzie had spoken of the place as though he’d been here often, though Imogen couldn’t say she recognized him. Perhaps Heather did. Perhaps she’d even had a negative experience with him. Imogen’s own intuition jangled uncomfortably in his presence, alerting her that he was a man capable of the most terrible things.

And yet, so was Trenwyth, of that she was certain.

“You heard him, Ginny,” del Toro said tightly, breaking into her thoughts. “Fetch the drinks.”

Imogen nodded, eager to comply, but remained trapped by the iron grip of Trenwyth’s arm about her waist.

“She stays where she is.” Trenwyth’s statement, delivered pleasantly enough, brooked no argument. Though his accent was that of the noblest of men, a cold note of steel threaded through the highborn gentility. He was a man who needn’t raise his voice to be obeyed. “She serves no one but me tonight.”

Imogen could feel her eyes widen and her lips compress in alarm as Trenwyth tugged the serving tray out of her talonlike grasp and idly handed it to del Toro.

“As you wish, Your Grace.” Her employer bowed over his large belly and snapped his fingers at the staff. He turned away without giving Imogen a second look.

She hadn’t been aware of her trembling until Trenwyth leaned forward, pressing his lips very close to her ear.

“Ginny.” The word rumbled all the way down her spine and skittered along her skin until every hair rose to vibrating attention. “That is your name?”

“Yes, Your Grace.” She whispered the lie. It was her “kitten” name. It was who she became at night in this dim, overwrought, and garish place frequented by poor bohemians, soldiers, and wealthy merchants alike. But rarely nobility. His sort had places like Madame Regina’s and other such pleasure palaces that certainly didn’t reek of absinthe and stale tobacco.

“Don’t let’s use formalities, Ginny.” He exhaled against her ear again, and she had to bite down on her lip against the strange and shivery sensations he’d elicited. “Don’t call me Your Grace again tonight, everyone else has agreed not to.”

She lowered her chin in what was supposed to be a nod. “What should I call you then?” she queried, instinctively turning her head toward him, not realizing how close it brought their lips to one another’s until they almost met.

“Those closest to me call me Cole,” he informed her mouth.

“But … I am not close to you.”

Tightening his arm around her once more, he grasped her hip with his other hand, and pulled her up his startlingly long and muscled thigh with a slow, languid move, until she straddled him as high as his leg would allow. Even through her skirts and petticoats, the movement created an unfamiliar friction against her sex that elicited an alarming but not unpleasant pressure. He didn’t stop until the curve of her bottom settled against his lap. She was aware of a surprisingly insistent cylindrical shape pressed against her. She’d worked at the Bare Kitten long enough to know exactly what it was.

“Far be it from me to contradict a lady, but I beg to differ. You and I are very close, indeed.”

Imogen hadn’t been aware how tense and inflexible she’d remained until the aching tremble of her muscles became unbearable. “I am not a lady.” She’d meant it as a statement of fact, but it escaped as a lament.

“That is precisely why I’ve picked you.” Gently, he brushed the curls of her raven wig to the side, and dropped a casual kiss on her bare shoulder as a bottle of Scotch and a couple of pristine glasses were placed in front of them.

Imogen felt that kiss with every part of her body.

“Your job tonight is to make certain I don’t see the bottom of that glass and to disagree with everything I say, can you do that, Ginny?” The good-humored manner in which he delivered his orders was underscored with something else. Something desperate and dismal.

“Disagree with you?”

“Yes,” he murmured, his eyes again arrested by her lips. “It’ll be quite novel for someone not to do everything I tell them to.”

“Of course, Your—” She caught herself in time. “Of course … Cole.” Saying his name lent even more intimacy to the moment, so she turned away and poured him a healthy glass of whisky.

“There’s a good girl,” the lieutenant called to her. “Get him soused enough to tell us where he’s off to.”

“Knowing would be your peril, not mine,” Trenwyth quipped, tossing back his drink with one great swallow. “All I can say is that Major Mackenzie is going with me.”

The lieutenant laughed. “You’re a spy, admit it,” he cried good-naturedly. “Secret missions, the matchless uniform, and they’re not letting you stay home despite…” The man seemed to catch himself before he brought up the funeral. “Despite the circumstances. I mean, you’re a duke now, dash it all.”

“I thought we weren’t discussing that.” Once again Trenwyth’s tone was deceptively mild, but the lieutenant blanched. “Besides,” the duke continued wryly. “They’re not secret missions if everyone apparently knows about them.”

“We find out after the fact,” another officer stated. “You’re gone, and then we catch wind of the assassination of a tribal warlord in the desert and you return looking quite brown claiming to have been on holiday.”

“And don’t forget!” The lieutenant was back in the conversation, encouraged by Trenwyth’s enigmatic smirk. “That time you left and the frightening business in the Alps suddenly resolved. I was told by a friend at the military hospital in Switzerland that you were treated there for frostbite just then.” He made noises as though he’d won some sort of athletic competition, receiving congratulations from his compatriots.

“I heard the Demon Highlander, himself, claim that you were just as deadly as he was and twice as skilled,” someone else jibed.

“He was being kind,” Trenwyth said modestly.

“Have ye met my brother?” Hamish asked around a tittering Devina, who’d draped herself across his lap. “He’s never kind.”

Trenwyth let out a sound that could have been mirth or bitterness, it was impossible to tell. When he leaned forward to have his glass refilled, Imogen had the bottle at the ready. “You don’t believe them, do you?” he whispered to her as though they shared a private joke while she poured him another.

“Not a word,” she replied, granting him the first genuine smile she’d given all night.

“I knew you were clever.” She didn’t tense half so much as he again brushed his lips across her shoulder, this time closer to her neck.

Over the course of the next hour or so, Imogen’s back relaxed by incremental degrees Eventually, she allowed her shoulders to lean against him as the men turned guessing his next assignment into a drinking game. The large buttons of his coat dug into her back, so she straightened again. Shifting her effortlessly, he unfastened the buttons with one hand and divested himself of his coat, settling her back into the circle of his arms as though she’d often been there. The movement increased her body’s awareness of him a thousandfold. Also, she noted, most men of her acquaintance weren’t half so thoughtful, and her opinion of him rose incrementally.

Against her back, his wide chest was hard as iron and warm; with every movement she could feel naught but honed muscle bunch and flex beneath her. She even caught herself enjoying the way he smelled, like the cedar chest where he, no doubt, stored his dress uniform and good sharp whisky, underscored by something she couldn’t at all place. Something that couldn’t strictly be identified nor reproduced, like the scent of a rainstorm or a perfectly ripe berry.

The men settled on Afghanistan as his next target, due to the trouble erupting there between Russia, Britain, and the Ottomans, and the drinking games dissolved into drunken stories, then into an abnormal amount of toasts. They toasted the queen, of course, and fallen comrades, living comrades, battles they won, battles they lost, ships they’d sailed on, and, most vehemently, women they’d loved. Imogen found it strange that they didn’t toast the new Duke of Trenwyth, or his recently deceased family. Though, she supposed, he seemed to very much want to avoid the subject altogether.

Of course, it was not her place to say anything, but she found herself sneaking surreptitious glances over her shoulder at him. He didn’t join the toasts, but he certainly drank to all of them. He didn’t tell any stories, but he made the appropriate noises. He seemed pensive. Withdrawn. But his stunningly handsome features were always kind when he looked at her, and his touch was more casually sensual than demanding or tawdry.

That in itself was a pleasant change. Most men tended to become heavy-handed when they drank, pinching, slapping, or squeezing bits of her until she wished she had nothing feminine with which to draw their attentions. But Trenwyth’s hands, while uncommonly large, were caressing as they occasionally tested her curves. He’d rest them in her skirts on her thighs, or slide them up her waist causing her heart to trill in her chest, though he’d stop just shy of her breasts, his fingertips barely grazing beneath them.

Still, it set her teeth, but not with disgust. With … something else altogether.

By now, half the men had disappeared through the curtain adjacent to the bar, behind which a long hallway with many doors stretched the length of the building. Those who went through those doors with one of the kittens paid del Toro first.

When Trenwyth adjusted his position, his leg rubbed against her so intimately, a stab of sensation caused her to gasp and clench her feminine muscles.

His thigh instantly tensed beneath her and, for a moment, Imogen was terrified that she’d offended him.

Until he did it again.

She had to reach out a hand to the table to steady herself against an assault of wicked pleasure.

His sex hardened against her backside once more, and he leaned up to gather her close. “I have a distinct feeling that you’re quick tinder to set ablaze, aren’t you?” His words slurred a little, but his movements were steady as one hand drifted down her waist and the other up her thigh, angling to meet in the middle.

Imogen caught his wrists, and he allowed her to hold him as though she had the strength to do so. “I’m compelled by your earlier directive to disagree,” she said solicitously, mostly because she had no idea what he’d meant. His mouth quested behind her ear, down her neck, until he nibbled the slight rise of her muscle as it angled south down the column of her back.

Delicious shivers again erupted over her entire body, and she was unable to control the clenching of her thighs as a concerning rush of warmth pooled between her legs.

“It makes no matter to me.” His voice was deeper than before, rougher, and her nipples tightened in response. “You could take as long as you like.”

Copyright © 2017 by Kerrigan Byrne.

My Interview with Kerrigan

Hi Kerrigan welcome to The Reading Frenzy.
Tell all my readers a bit about The Duke
Hello!  I’m absolutely thrilled to be invited to The Reading Frenzy to discuss The Duke.  This story inspired me because it’s all about two separated lovers finding each other after life has changed them irrevocably.  I think I’m a little partial to this theme because it’s so real. We play many roles in the phases of our lives, and we hope that those we love can adjust and morph and grow with who we become.  When Collin Talmage, The Duke of Trenwyth first meets Imogen Pritchard, he’s a Victorian James Bond playboy secret agent character, and she’s a nurse who moonlights as a waitress in a brothel. They share a night of passion before he runs off to his next assignment, where he goes missing and is presumed dead for years.  When they next truly meet, their roles have completely reversed.  She’s a wealthy countess, widowed by a kind older patient of hers who saved her from ruin by marrying her. And he’s a broken, reclusive man  haunted by years of torture as a prisoner of war.  Their passionate journey back to each other is so meaningful to me because it explores how love can truly bring hope and light back to someone who thinks they’ve forever lost both.

The Duke is the 4th book in your Victorian Rebels series.
How are the books related and should they be read in order or do they stand well on their own?
       The books CAN be read out of order without the reader feeling lost.  However the characters in this series are irrevocably linked.  The heroes in books 1 and 3 (Dorian Blackwell and Liam Mackenzie) are half brothers. The heroes in books 2 and 4 (Christopher Argent and Collin Talmage) are next-door neighbors. All three previous heroes and heroines make an appearance in this book, but I don’t think you need their back story to appreciate them, though I do hope that if you haven’t yet read The Highwayman, The Hunter, and The Highlander, that The Duke will make you want to do so!

Kerrigan you seem to have multiple books releasing closely.
Do you write one then start on another or are you able to write multiple books at one time?
       Great question!  There is NO WAY I could keep up with more than one story thread at a time.  So I write pretty chronologically. I start a book and see it through scene by scene until the end, then start the next one almost right away. I’ll admit that I’m a slow writer compared to so many out there! 

I as a reader love series, whether its character catch up or returning to a favorite town there’s just something special about a series.
What makes a series special to the author?
       Another fantastic question! I also love to read series, and I think it’s exactly linked to something you mentioned… When I watch or read about a favorite place, there is nothing better than returning there for more. It’s like going on vacation to a darling location and meeting old friends.  I love to glimpse into the lives of previous beloved characters and make sure that happily ever after is still going strong. That some of their previously unresolved issues are being worked on. That they still struggle and triumph and use their hard-won happiness and wisdom to help their friends and loved ones (and even sometimes their enemies) find love and absolution.  (also revenge when it’s called for…because alpha males, amiright?)

Kerrigan your bio says you always wanted to write romance novels.
       Because I can’t remember a time I didn’t love to read them. Romance is always at the heart of a great deal of other genres. It’s such a defining and motivating factor for so many of our favorite characters from childhood into adulthood.  Even when I’m watching something like Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, or The Avengers, I’m often focused on the romantic elements of the story. That’s how I know Romance is definitely a genre I’ll be attached to forever.

You write in several genres and many time periods.
Do you have a favorite?
       That’s like asking me to pick a favorite child!  My two favorite ages to write about are Victorian (obviously) and Ancient history i.e. Romans, Druids, mythology, etc. I always need an extra element of suspense, mystery, or paranormal danger in my stories, because you can only take the emotional melodrama so far, in my opinion.

Kerrigan you’re a very socially connected author.
Do you think you have to be really connected in this day and age or can the secretive writer still find success today?
       Therein lies the question!  I do find myself sucked into the tagging, posting, tweeting and hash tagging, but there are so many days I wish it wasn’t a necessary evil.  I love love that I have so many platforms in which to interact with friends and fans, but I also sometimes feel tied to it. (not to mention that it’s a welcome distraction when I’m feeling blocked or lazy! Can’t I just play with my friends instead of write this really long book??)  I think that often a good book speaks for itself, and other people will make enough buzz for some authors, that they’ve seemed to do well without much of a social media presence. I am not one of those authors.  There are days it feels like I’m begging the interwebs to PLEASE LOVE ME AND BUY MY BOOKS AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PLEASE GET YOUR FRIENDS TO BUY THEM TOO, SO I DON’T HAVE TO SUBSIST ON CAT FOOD AND YEAR-OLD SALTINES! That being said, marketing is a facet of the job I’ve never completely relaxed into, so I do attempt to use social media as a place to connect with other humans, rather than try to do too much business.  Maybe I’m doing it wrong. Who knows? What was the question again?  ;)

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions will you be attending any author/signing events coming up?
       Because I’m moving between states this year, it’ll be quiet on the conference front, though I’m very much hoping to be at the Historical Romance Retreat in Spokane, Washington this September.  Here is the information!
Thank you so much for this excellent chat!  I have thoroughly enjoyed myself! 

Connect with Kerrigan- Website - Facebook - Twitter
MEET Kerrigan:Whether she’s writing about Celtic Druids, Victorian bad boys, or brash Irish FBI Agents, Kerrigan Byrne uses her borderline-obsessive passion for history, her extensive Celtic ancestry, and her love of Shakespeare in every book. She lives at the base of the Rocky Mountains with her handsome husband and three lovely teenage girls, but dreams of settling on the Pacific Coast.

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  1. It sounds great; thanks for the chance and I hope I get a chance to read it.

  2. Love that cover! And the book sounds fantastic!

  3. Love this series my favorite so far is the Highlander

  4. A Victorian James Bond! Oi! How can this book get any sexier?!
    Good luck with the move and have fun in the conference.

  5. Oh, I had the same reaction as Braine about a Victorian James Bond.

    I've had my eye on this series since several blogger pals wrote fantastic reviews of them. Can't wait.

  6. Oh I love the sound of this one and have never even heard of the author. Off to check it out a bit more!!

  7. Oh Kerrigan is a new author for me! Oh this sounds so good! I love how you focus on the romantic elements in movies...I always do that too! Cannot wait to read and see what else she has written!

  8. I would love to read this book, thank you for the giveaway!

  9. I so wanted to read this one but everyone kept telling me I needed to read all the others first. I'm glad to hear the author's side on that. I'll definitely dive in :D They sound amazing! One of my favorite set ups, too.

    1. Oh glad to have been able to answer a question Anna