First Page Friday ~ Guest ~ Karen M Cox

My guest today is Karen M Cox and she's brought with her today a unique variation of our favourite Pride & Prejudice couple, Elizabeth and Darcy. This adventure is set in a more modern time - towards the end of the official cold war era before the Eastern Wall was torn down. Emotions ran high. Spies lurked in dark corners and sometime on your very own street. Loads of intrigue and I'm sure Ms. Cox has captured it all in her delightful mystery, UNDECEIVED.

Blurb:

“...if I endeavor to undeceive people as to the rest of his conduct, who will believe me?”
-Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 40
Elizabeth Bennet, a rookie counterintelligence officer, lands an intriguing first assignment—investigating the CIA's legendary William Darcy, who is suspected of being a double agent.

Darcy’s charmed existence seems at an end as he fights for his career and struggles against his love for the young woman he doesn’t know is watching his every move.

Elizabeth’s confidence dissolves as nothing is like she planned—and the more she discovers about Darcy, the more she finds herself in an ever-tightening web of danger.

Unexpected twists abound in this suspenseful Cold War era romance inspired by Jane Austen’s classic tale.


First Page:

Prologue
East Berlin, GDR
October 1982
His vision began to darken. He heard shouts again, a man’s, no… there was a female voice in the mix, but he lacked the brainpower to muster a care for who it was. Was it English he heard? Or was his mind, so inured to translating, automatically interpreting the German? He was tired, so tired, but if he could only rest a while, he could recruit some strength and get…where? Ah yes, West Berlin.
The voices grew even as his consciousness faded. His mouth tried to form words like “over here” or “help me.” But nothing came out except more blood—from his side, from his shoulder, from his hand. There were pinpricks behind his eyelids again, moving faster like a giant kaleidoscope, and the world continued to melt away. He felt movement when he slumped out of the pantry door and cursed when someone pushed him back up to a sitting position.
“Come on. Wake up, old chap! We’re getting you out of here. Stay with me. My car is right outside.”
“USBER. Hurry.” His speech slurred as if he’d been on a three-day drunk.
“Yes, straight across the border.”
His lips twitched. “Fitz?”
“I’m here. You’re going to be fine. Hang on.”
William Darcy forced his eyes open, but it wasn’t Fitz he saw in front of him.
“You arrogant bastard,” she said in a clipped tone. “What don’t you understand about ‘stay put’? We’ve been looking for you for flipping ever! You’re damn lucky Fitz remembered the location of this safe house.”
“Hi, little cutie. What are you doing here?” His head lolled about on his shoulders.
“I’m saving your overconfident, egotistical hide.”
“Aww, honey, don’t nag. Hey, how you gonna get us out of this one? How good is your German?” He grinned, inwardly laughing at the asinine situation in which he’d found himself.
“You know it’s damn good, danke. And I’m going to get us out of here ’cause, unlike you, I’ve got my ducks in a row,” she quipped then gasped as she drew back her hand, covered in his blood. “Holy shit!” She stared at her blood-soaked fingers. Apparently, he’d bled through his last attempt at a bandage. She heaved him toward her and ran her hands over his torso, assessing the damage as he groaned again.
“Fitz”—she spoke with a forced calm—“find something to check this. We’ve got to get him out of here. And there had better be a medical team waiting as soon as we get across the border.”
Fitz disappeared and returned with a couple of musty towels, one of which she slipped under Darcy’s armpit and tied firmly.
“Good god, woman!” he said through gritted teeth.
“I have to stop the bleeding.”
“If you put a tourniquet on there, I’m liable to lose my damn arm!”
“Stop being such a baby. It’s not that tight.”
“Is…too.” He was losing the burst of alertness fostered by the hope of rescue and the pain in his shoulder.
She tried to pull his shirt up to see, but it was stuck to the side wound. Looking at it, she sat back, horrified.
“Bad?” he whispered.
“Not so bad.”
“Liar,” he murmured. Over her shoulder, she spoke in a low voice. “We have to go—now.”
What a fabulous kick start! Yet another book to add to my virtually teetering TBR pile. Thank you Karen for stopping by. I can't wait to read the rest and try and solve the mystery.


Thursday Three Hundred

Georgiana is my focus for this week. When we last left off Viscount Ashton had Maxwell's throat in his grip, slowly squeezing until it became difficult for the Duke to breathe. The Viscount had found out that Max had deserted Georgiana at Adborough Hall and, well.... her cousin wishes to extract some revenge.
“Ash,” Max choked out and patted the Viscount’s arm in the unspoken way of surrendering to a more capable opponent. “I love Georgiana.”
“You love her!”
“Yes.”
 With a bitter laugh, he released his grip and stepped back. Max coughed as much-needed air made its way into his lungs. With a sound of disgust, Ashton turned to leave. When he reached the door, he stopped abruptly and faced Max.
“You are a hypocrite and a fraud. A deceiver of the worst kind.” His voice vibrated with anger. “You may love your horse, or your newest vest, but you do not love my cousin.”
“I do love her,” Max reiterated and straightened to his full height, his bruised pride smarting over the idea that Ash believed he loved only inanimate objects. “My recent behavior is unacceptable” – the Viscount snorted indelicately – “however, if Georgiana is willing to look beyond this and forgive, I ask that you follow her lead. All I can do is prove my words with action.”
“There is a story in the Bible where the Lord caused the sun to stand still. You need a miracle of that magnitude to earn back my cousin’s trust. To earn back ALL our trust.”
For the first time Max felt a hint of a smile. Could this be the sign he’d prayed for? A strange peace settled about his heart, something he hadn’t felt in months.
“You and I both know that if God can make the sun and moon stand still, He can soften the heart of the sweetest woman ever created. I will do my part and the Almighty will do His.”
“Then, if you plan to stand on prayer alone, you’d better ask God to give Elizabeth a heart full of forgiveness. She is the one you should fear the most.”
“The list of those I’ve hurt is long and I’m well aware this task is difficult. I’ve loved your cousin for many years, but allowed anger and pride to dictate my actions.”
Ash reached for the door handle and then paused.
“Adborough,” he said, without turning around. “It’s been a long time since I thought God held any interest in the affairs of man. If you manage to earn back the love and respect of our family and friends, I may have to revisit my long-held doubts.”
“Then it’s imperative that I succeed.”
The Viscount half turned and held Max’s gaze. “I almost hope you do.”
Do you think Max can earn Georgiana's trust and should he fear the wrath of Elizabeth Darcy, as intimated by the Viscount? We're nearing the end of our story. At least five or six more chapters and then off to editing!



First Page Friday ~ GUEST ~ Pamela Gibson



About the Author:

Author of eight books on California history and twelve romance novels, Pamela Gibson is a former City Manager who lives in the Nevada desert. Having spent the last three years messing about in boats, a hobby that included a five-thousand-mile trip in a 32-foot Nordic Tug, she now spends most of her time indoors happily reading, writing, cooking and keeping up with the antics of her gran-cats, gran-dog, and gran-fish. Sadly, the gran-lizard went to his final reward. If you want to learn more about her activities visit her website, linked above, and sign up for her blog and quarterly newsletter.





Blurb:
Marry in haste…

Lady Gwendolyn Pettigrew longs to be a mother, but refuses to marry the lecherous old fool her father has found for her. When her best friend convinces her to consider her husband’s younger brother as a suitable candidate, Gwen agrees to a marriage of convenience, hoping against hope that her dream of becoming a mother will have a chance.

The Hon. John Montague, a penniless younger son, is handsome, witty, and thrilled that a woman with a dowry has agreed to wed him. Best of all she’s a fiercely independent bluestocking, a woman who won’t want to bother with a family. Because John has a shocking secret. He’s vowed never to bring a child into the world, a child who, like his own mother, might carry the strain of madness.


As secrets unfold, tension grows, threatening the fragile bonds they’ve forged.  Worse, someone wants them to abandon their home and leave Yorkshire, and they’ll stop at nothing to make it happen.

First Page:
Prologue
Longley Village, October, 1814
The walls of the dower house rose before him, higher now, obscuring the stone house beyond. The sturdy wooden gate had a double lock to make sure the woman inside could not escape.
The house itself was small, but pleasant. He’d made sure all her personal possessions moved with her, so she’d be surrounded by familiar things. Her favorite chair, her ornate silk bed hangings, the hand-carved armoire from France—all these fripperies occupied the rooms in her new home. Tall windows overlooked a flower garden planted with roses, wisteria, and rhododendrons. In time, ivy would cover the new section of the wall.
John Montague inserted the key and opened the gate.
He swallowed the bile rising in his throat. He’d forced himself to visit her, not knowing if he’d be greeted with affection or a screaming rage. But he’d been assured today was one of her good days.
Her longtime maid answered the door and seated him in the small parlor. He crossed his legs and swung his foot, his gaze fastened on the door into the hallway. It opened.

Oh dear. Love never runs a smooth path. I've not read Pamela's book but now that I've had a sneak peek at the first page I'm scooching over to Amazon and adding yet another book to my TBR. One day it will virtually topple over and kill my kindle... lol



Thursday Three Hundred


Welcome back, my lovelies. My Thursday 300 is from my next novel ~ Mary ~ which follows Georgiana. Now that my health is building strength, I hope to have her finished/published early next year. I may be healthier but I'm still a SLOW writer. Thank goodness you've stuck with me through all this.

I'm having fun, dabbling with Mary's story. She is a character I've come to love and I hope you will too. This scene takes place fairly early in the story, although as I flesh it out a bit more this scene could move down a few chapters.
Richard arrived late for Elizabeth’s dinner party and could hear that everyone had gathered in the front drawing room. Not wanting to draw attention to himself, he slipped in through one of the servant’s doors, which brought him near where the pianoforte was positioned.
Upon entering he glanced around the milling guests and only turned to see who was playing when a discordant note was heard, followed by what could best be described as a soft growl. The pianist blew out a soft puff of air, rolled her shoulders and began playing again. Time stopped. There was no other way to describe the moment.
She was beautiful. How had he never noticed before how beautiful Miss Mary Bennet was? He paused in thought and realized that in all the family gatherings over the past few years he’d really never been properly introduced to her. He reasoned it was because the Bennet family was, in the loosest sense of the word, family. And if he were honest, he’d never taken notice of her because she always stayed in the background.
Now that he thought about it further, she usually played so the rest of them could dance. Had he seen her dance? He had a terrifyingly good memory and not once did he recall seeing Miss Bennet dance. Ever. Still unobserved by any of the guests, he took his time to assess the young woman seated at the pianoforte.
Her hair was lustrous and dark, similar in color and texture to Elizabeth. In fact, she favored her elder sister in many ways, with a heart shaped face and dark eyes, which at the moment were glaring at the music sheets as though they offended her. Another discordant note was heard. His heart almost thudded to a stop when she bit her lip in consternation, and as she mangled that full bottom lip with small white teeth, he determined that one day he would kiss her. The only question was when.
 Well? Do you think he's well on his way to being in love?