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On a wild night, p.1
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       On a Wild Night, p.1

           Stephanie Laurens
 
On a Wild Night


  CONTENTS

  The Family Tree

  HarperCollins e-book extra: From the Lab to the Regency: One Writer’s Travels: An Interview with Stephanie Laurens

  Chapter 1

  “It’s hopeless!” Amanda Cynster flopped on her back on her twin sister’s bed.

  Chapter 2

  Exiting Mellors, Martin sauntered out into Duke Street.

  Chapter 3

  If the minx was setting her cap at him, she was going about it in a damned unusual way.

  Chapter 4

  Amanda slipped through the side gate of her parents’ house into a narrow lane.

  Chaper 5

  When she saw the dark figure atop the pawing roan waiting under the tree the next morning, . . .

  Chapter 6

  Two mornings later, Amanda tiptoed around her bedchamber, wriggling into her chemise and . . .

  Chapter 7

  She’d snared her lion only to find him wounded. For the moment, he could return . . .

  Chapter 8

  “I don’t suppose,” Martin inquired acerbically, as his carriage turned into Park Lane, . . .

  Chapter 9

  The house was silent and still; his arms full of Amanda’s warmth, Martin didn’t feel its chill.

  Chapter 10

  Neither, she decided, as she slipped from the house at five o’clock the next morning.

  Chapter 11

  The remainder of the ball passed in a blur; Amanda couldn’t wait to get home and into bed.

  Chapter 12

  At precisely midnight, Amanda slipped out onto the narrow balcony at the end of the . . .

  Chapter 13

  “These arrived for you a few minutes ago, Miss Amanda.”

  Chapter 14

  In the days and evenings that followed, Amanda increasingly felt like an antelope cut out from . . .

  Chapter 15

  Martin stepped into His Grace of St. Ives’ study—every self-protective instinct he possessed . . .

  Chapter 16

  The arrival of three white orchids every morning had become a regular feature in her life.

  Chapter 17

  “A swing!” Amanda stopped before a padded bench, two people wide, suspended from a . . .

  Chapter 18

  Amanda’s fingers clutched Martin’s; his hand locked over hers.

  Chapter 19

  They were still snuggled in the warmth of his mother’s counterpane when Martin heard . . .

  Chapter 20

  “Da’s in the cottage out back, m’lord.” The blacksmith set aside his bellows; his demeanor . . .

  Chapter 21

  After making arrangements to leave the next morning, they retired early to their beds.

  Chapter 22

  Under orders from his prospective bride and mother-in-law, Martin called in Upper Brook . . .

  Chapter 23

  The sound jangled through the house, jangled over their nerves.

  About the Author

  Enter The World of Stephanie Laurens

  Copyright

  About the Publisher

  The Family Tree

  Click on a name listed below to expand their branch of the family tree.

  SEBASTIAN

  ARTHUR

  GEORGE

  AUGUSTA

  MARTIN

  SEBASTIAN

  BACK

  ARTHUR

  BACK

  GEORGE

  BACK

  AUGUSTA

  BACK

  MARTIN

  BACK

  From the Lab to the Regency:

  One Writer’s Travels

  Part One

  An interview by Claire E. White

  Australia’s Stephanie Laurens was born on the island known to the ancients as Serendip, or Paradise (and today known as the less-than-paradisal Sri Lanka) and spent four formative years (’78-’81) living in England, in the Kentish countryside. Her residence there was a sixteenth-century oast house, right next door to a first-century Roman villa and just down the lane from a castle begun in the fourteenth century and completed in the seventeenth. Stephanie’s time in England gave her firsthand experience of the scenery, the grand houses, and the English weather that would contribute to the richness of her historical romances, all set in the English Regency — that period, 1811-1820, during which George, Prince of Wales (later King George IV), served as regent for his mentally ill father, King George III.

  Stephanie trained as a research scientist and has a Ph.D. in biochemistry. After nineteen years in medical research (during which time she rose to head her own laboratory), Stephanie decided that too much of her time was spent on administrative, non-creative labors. In looking for a more satisfying career, she started writing novels. Her first work, Tangled Reins, a Regency romance, was published in 1992 by Harlequin Mills & Boon, London. Seven books followed for HM&B and they were also published in Germany, France, Japan, Italy, Australia, the Philippines, the U.S., and Canada. Stephanie then turned to writing longer historical romances, still set in the Regency but specifically tailored for American readers.

  Her first such romance was Captain Jack’s Woman [Avon, 1997; HarperCollins e-book, 2002] which received a rave review and an “Outstanding” rating of six stars from Affaire de Coeur — only the second book ever to have achieved this rating. Romantic Times rated Captain Jack’s Woman as “exceptional,” and dubbed Stephanie “a bright new star of the adventure romance genre.”

  Stephanie is best known for her Bar Cynster novels. The first six Cynster books tell the stories of six cousins: Devil’s Bride (1998); A Rake’s Vow (1998); Scandal’s Bride (1999); A Rogue’s Proposal (1999); A Secret Love (2000); All About Love (2001).

  “Each book has as its hero one of the male members of the infamous Bar Cynster family,” Stephanie explains. “Each novel tells the tale of how the hero meets his fated match, how he woos and weds his lady, how he falls victim to the inescapable fate that overtakes all Cynster men — despite their strong resistance, all Cynsters are fated to love.”

  The Promise in a Kiss (2001) is the story of Helana and Sebastian, and the beginning of the Cynster dynasty.On a Wild Night (2002) and On a Wicked Dawn (2002) tell the stories of the Cynster twins, Amanda and Amelia.

  All About Passion (2001) is the story of Cynster rival Gyles Frederick Rawlings, fifth Earl of Chillingworth, and his enchantment by a “gypsy in green”...

  [All ten titles are available as HarperCollins e-books.]

  Stephanie lives in a leafy suburb of Melbourne with her husband and two daughters. She talked with us about her career change from cancer researcher to romance novelist and gave us some insight on how she creates her romantic treasures.

  ~

  HarperCollins e-book editor’s note: The interview that follows commences in Amanda’s e-book, On a Wild Night, and concludes in Amelia’s, On a Wicked Dawn.

  ~

  Claire E. White: When did you first start reading romance novels?

  Stephanie Laurens: The first I recall was when I was thirteen and my mother was reading Georgette Heyer — she borrowed them from a friend and I would read them before she returned them. These Old Shades was the very first I read. Through my teens, I bought the whole set, and they have been read and re-read many times, by my mother and sister as well as by me.

  Claire E. White: Tell us about your prior career as a senior research scientist. What was your specialty?

  Stephanie Laurens: My specific training was in immunology, immunogenetics, and molecular biology. I always worked in one area or another of medical research, but for most of my career I worked in cancer research. My two major projects before I stopped were in studying a family of genes overexpressed in ovarian cancers, and a new c
ancer-associated gene in breast cancer.

  Claire E. White: How did you go from being a research scientist to being a romance novelist?

  Stephanie Laurens: I made the transition over a period of about four years. I originally made a decision to move out of research, then looked around for what else I could do. During that period, I accidentally stumbled onto writing novels — I ran out of the type of book I wanted to read (at that point, I was thirsting for a Regency romance), so I sat down to write one, to amuse myself more than anything else. Once it was written, I thought it was quite reasonable — I enjoyed it, so made someone else would. Someone else did, and from that a romance novelist was born.

  Claire E. White: Do you ever miss your scientific work?

  Stephanie Laurens: I’ve asked myself this often over the years, but the answer remains the same: No. I think that’s because I’m an inherently creative sort, and the element that initially attracted me to scientific research was the cutting-edge, creative side of it. But the more senior you become, the less time you can spend at the creative interface personally, and that was where I started losing interest.

  Claire E. White: How did you make your first professional sale as an author? Did you use an agent?

  Stephanie Laurens: My first sale, of that first manuscript of mine, Tangled Reins, a Regency romance, was to Harlequin Mills & Boon, London. I submitted it unsolicited based on their guidelines. An agent wasn’t necessary, and, for that house, still isn’t. Crossing to New York, however, changed things, but while I now have a wonderful and savvy agent who handles all my new works, all with New York publishers, my “sales” as such have always come about through my work itself — either the editor reads it and wants it, or another editor has read something of mine and approaches me to write something for them.

  Claire E. White: What are your writing habits and where do you write?

  Stephanie Laurens: I write in a study, which is pretty well devoted to writing and the business of writing. It’s a fairly large room, with good natural light and good lighting as well. When I’m “creating” — i.e., writing the first draft — then I simply write as much as I can, for as long as I can, every day that I can. My impulse is to write. I want to be at the computer with my fingers on the keys, typing away, essentially draining the story from my head.

  There are, of course, all sorts of interruptions to this simple timetable, until it becomes anything but simple. My experience is that you can’t become a professional writer without establishing some sort of discipline to your writing week. I currently write four days a week, and my minimum acceptable is thirty hours per week, Monday to Sunday. I won’t let myself drop below that no matter what. I am a “computer writer” in that I couldn’t have become a writer without computers. I think far too fast to write in longhand, and I would have become too frustrated to have ever finished that first manuscript if it hadn’t been for computers. I’m not a touch typist, but my speed and accuracy are good, so I can go along as fast as a slow think.

  Claire E. White: What are your pet peeves in reading romance novels?

  ~

  Interview concludes in the HarperCollin e-book edition of On a Wicked Dawn.

  ~

  Excerpts from an interview with Stephanie Laurens by Claire E. White, editor-in-chief, The Internet Writing Journal®, http://www.writerswrite.com. Edited for this HarperCollins e-book edition.

  Upper Brook Street, London

  February 20, 1825

  “It’s hopeless!” Amanda Cynster flopped on her back on her twin sister’s bed. “There is simply no gentleman in the ton worth considering—not at present.”

  “There hasn’t been for the last five years—well, not gentlemen interested in taking a wife.” Stretched beside Amanda, Amelia stared up at the canopy. “We’ve searched and searched—”

  “Turned every stone.”

  “And the only ones even vaguely interesting are . . . not interested.”

  “It’s ludicrous!”

  “It’s depressing.”

  Alike in both feature and figure, blessed with blond ringlets, cornflower blue eyes and porcelain complexions, the twins could easily have posed for La Belle Assemblée as the epitome of well-bred fashionable young ladies, except for their expressions. Amelia looked disgusted, Amanda mutinous. “I refuse to lower my standards.”

  They’d discussed their requirements in a husband ad infinitum over the years. Their standards did not materially differ from those espoused by their mentors—their mother and aunts, their cousins’ wives. They were surrounded by strong women, ladies all, who had, one and all, found happiness in their marriages. The twins had little doubt as to the qualities they sought.

  A gentleman who loved them, who would set them and the family they would raise above all other considerations. A protector, a helpmate, with a reliable, strong arm who would always be there to keep them safe. A man who valued their skills, intelligence and opinions, who would accept them as an equal however much he wished to be lord and master of his world. A gentleman of sufficient substance to render their not-inconsiderable dowries by-the-by; a man of their world well connected enough to take the powerful Cynster clan in his stride.

  A man of passion and family feeling—lover, protector, partner. Husband.

  Amanda humphed. “There have to be some out there who measure up to our cousins”—the Bar Cynster, that notorious group of six who had for so long lorded it over the ton, leaving uncounted ladies languishing in their wake until, one by one, fate had snared their hearts. “They can’t be unique.”

  “They’re not. Think of Chillingworth.”

  “True—but when I do, I think of Lady Francesca, so that’s not much help. He’s already taken.”

  “He’s too old, anyway. We need someone nearer our age.”

  “But not too near—I’ve had my fill of earnest young men.” It had been a road-to-Damascus revelation when they’d realized that their cousins—those arrogant, dictatorial males they had for so long fought to be free of—were in fact the embodiment of their ideals. The realization had thrown the shortcomings of the current candidates for their hands into even more dismal relief. “If we’re ever to find husbands, we’re going to have to do something!”

  “We need a plan.”

  “One different to last year’s, or the year before that’s!” Amanda glanced at Amelia; her twin’s expression was abstracted, eyes fixed on some vision only she could see. “You look as if you have one.”

  Amelia glanced her way. “No, not a plan. Not yet. But there are suitable gentlemen, only they aren’t on the lookout for a wife. I can think of at least one, and there must be others. I was thinking . . . maybe we should stop waiting and take matters into our own hands.”

  “I couldn’t agree more, but what are you proposing?”

  Amelia’s jaw firmed. “I’m sick of waiting—we’re twenty-three! I want to be married by June. Once the Season starts, I’m going to reassess and make a new list of candidates, regardless of whether they’re thinking of marriage or not. Then I intend picking the one that suits me best, and taking steps to ensure he accompanies me to the altar.”

  That last phrase rang with determination. Amanda studied Amelia’s profile. Many thought she was the stubborn one, the stronger, more overtly confident one. Amelia appeared so much quieter, yet in reality, once Amelia set her sights on a goal it was well nigh impossible to turn her from it.

  All of which begged the point.

  “You sly minx—you’ve got your eye on someone.”

  Amelia wrinkled her nose. “I do, but I’m not sure. He may not be the best choice—if you disregard the caveat that they should be looking for a bride, then there are a lot more to chose from.”

  “True.” Amanda flopped onto her back. “But not for me. I’ve looked.” A moment passed. “Are you going to tell me who he is, or should I guess?”

  “Neither.” Amelia glanced at her. “I don’t know for certain that he’s the one, and you might inadvertently
give away my interest if you know.”

  Weighing the likelihood, Amanda had to admit it was real; dissembling wasn’t her strong suit. “Very well, but how do you intend ensuring he accompanies you to the altar?”

  “I don’t know, but I’ll do whatever is necessary to get him there.”

  The grimly determined vow sent a shiver down Amanda’s spine. She knew perfectly well what “whatever is necessary” encompassed. It was a risky strategy, yet she had little doubt Amelia, with her core of steel, could follow it to victory.

  Amelia glanced at her. “What about you? What of your plan? You needn’t bother telling me you don’t have one.”

  Amanda grinned. That was the best of being twins—they followed each other’s thoughts instinctively. “I’ve already looked through the ton, and not just among those who’ve deigned to worship at our dainty feet. I’ve concluded that, as I can’t find a gentleman within the ton, then I need to search outside it.”

  “Where will you find marriageable gentlemen outside the ton?”

  “Where did our cousins spend most of their evenings before they married?”

  “They used to attend some of the balls and parties.”

 
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