I’m delighted to welcome fellow Celtic Romance Writers member Mary Gillgannon here today.
During my early childhood, I lived in rural northern Illinois and spent my time climbing trees, riding my bike on the gravel roads and visiting the animals on the neighborhood dairy farms. No other children lived close by, and since my sisters were older and often didn’t include me in their activities, I spent a lot of time alone, making up stories. It was great background for a future writer, but it was lonely and I was excited when we moved to a small town. But even there I chafed at the slow pace of life and longed to move to a city as soon as I could. Although I lived in Los Angeles for six (scary) months after college, since then I’ve made my home in a small city, which seems like the perfect compromise between the two lifestyles.
My background has given me an affinity for country girls, so when I started writing in the Regency era, it seemed natural to make my heroines intrepid young misses from the rural areas of England who meet (and later fall in love with) sophisticated London noblemen.
Despite their lack of “town bronze”, my country misses usually end up getting the best of the more urbane heroes. Ariella Lyndgate, the heroine of Saint Sin, is no exception. She is determined to do whatever it takes to save her brother from a crushing gambling debt, and if she has to match wits with and engage in outrageous “sex play” with jaded earl Michael St. Cyr (Saint Sin), to help Timothy, she’ll do exactly that. Her common sense, practical approach to life makes it impossible for her to ever imagine herself succumbing to the erotic spell of this scandalous nobleman, and eventually ending up falling in love with him. But that’s exactly what happens… along with intrigue, danger and sizzling sexual encounters.
It was a lot of fun to write Saint Sin, and contrast Ariella’s straightforward, resourceful nature with Michael’s complex and troubled personality. To pair her innocent and idealistic outlook with his jaded and cynical one. It made me think a lot about the advantages and disadvantages of both city and country lifestyles.
So, city or country. Which one do you prefer?
When decadent earl Michael St. Cyr, “Saint Sin”, discovers Ariella Lyndgate in his bedchamber, he assumes she’s a fashionable impure sent to entertain him. Caught in the act of stealing a diamond to pay off her brother’s ruinous debts, Ariella agrees to the dalliance. But as she continues the erotic deception, she finds herself falling for the enigmatic lord.
She returned to the bedchamber and looked around. Where was the safebox? Where would a man keep his valuables? A landscape painting on the wall caught her eye. The colors were rich and vibrant and the scene almost magically alive. But what she noticed even more was that it was hanging slightly crooked. She went to the painting and lifted it with one hand, then felt underneath with the other. Her fingers encountered the edge of a door set into the wall. Excitement raced through her, then turned quickly to dismay as she heard the door behind her open. She released the painting and whirled around. A man entered and gazed at her in surprise. “Who are you?” he drawled. “And what are you doing in my bedchamber?”
Ariella froze. She expected him to approach her angrily. Instead, he leaned against the doorjamb and regarded her with a bemused expression. It took her only a moment to realize he was drunk. Quite so, in fact, gauging from his demeanor. His dark eyes were heavy-lidded and sleepy-looking, his tanned skin slightly flushed. He wore no coat and his ascot was half-untied.
His dishabille unnerved her. The way he held himself was both languid and alert. He reminded her of a panther, all fluid nonchalance, until it sprang and sank its teeth into its victim. The image seemed very apt. St. Cyr reminded her of a wild beast. Or a fallen angel. Beauty masking wickedness. Saint Sin, indeed.
Ariella’s acquaintance with noblemen had previously been limited to two types: The boyish fops her brother associated with and the portly, older gentlemen who leered and asked her to dance. This man was a different sort altogether. Not young. Not old, either. He retained the grace of youth, and yet it was overlain with the weariness and cynicism of age. Despite his degree of intoxication, this man was no fool. She knew instantly he wasn’t someone to trifle with.
“So,” he said. “Are you going to tell me what you’re doing here? Or should I guess?”
She licked her dry lips. No plausible explanation came to mind. None.
He moved suddenly, coming to stand a few feet away. Her heart stopped. “Mmmm,” he said. “I assume that means I’ll have to guess. Let me think. I come to my bedroom to discover a beautiful young woman waiting for me. What could it mean? That I’ve died and gone to heaven and she’s my reward?” He shook his head. “Doubtful. Very doubtful. Or, perhaps you wandered in here by mistake, looking for the water closet?” Ariella opened her mouth to agree, but he went on, “Yet that would seem very unlikely since there are half a dozen water closets between here and the ballroom. No, I think you must be here for something else.”
He moved nearer, his gaze assessing. She surveyed him as well, observing the faint lines etching his elegant features. The long, lean power of his body. The way strands of his raven hair had escaped the black ribbon tying it. Another oddity. No men she knew wore their hair in a queue.
He still held a half-empty wine glass, cradling it in graceful fingers. “Mmmm,” he said again, with a kind of feigned amazement. “You’re dressed like a Cyprian more than a lady, but then it’s hard to tell about such things these days.” Smiling tightly, he added. “Many ladies of my acquaintance indulge in behavior more suitable for a street corner doxy.”
He slowly circled her, perusing her body. By the time he came to stand in front of her once more, Ariella’s heart was thudding in her chest like a drum. The key to the safe, concealed in her left hand, seemed to burn her fingers.
“Yes,” he said. “You make a delightful fashionable impure. The perfect blend of refinement and sensuality.” His gaze surveyed her once more. “But, the question remains, what is a luscious demi-rep doing in my bedchamber?” He raised his eyes to her face.
Ariella remained frozen, like a rabbit trapped by a predator. Then, all at once, the words came tumbling out. “I was sent here … by a gentleman friend of yours.” It was only a half-lie.
His puzzlement seemed to intensify. “Sent here? As a gift?” He stared at her. Then a slow smile spread across his face.
Bio: Mary Gillgannon writes romance novels set in the dark ages, medieval and English Regency time periods and fantasy and historical novels with Celtic influences. Raised in the Midwest, she now lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming where she works at the local public library. When not writing, she enjoys travel, gardening and spending time with her husband, two grown children and her pets (four cats and a dog).
You can find Mary at:
To purchase Saint Sin: