@Archaeolibrary, @GoddessFish, @MCBunn3,
Feisty, independent heiress Winifred de la Coeur has never wanted to live according to someone else’s rules—but even she didn’t plan on falling in love with a bank robber.
Winifred is a wealthy, nontraditional beauty who bridles against the strict rules and conventions of Victorian London society. When she gets caught up in the chaos of a bungled bank robbery, she is thrust unwillingly into an encounter with Court Furor, a reluctant getaway driver and prizefighter. In the bitter cold of a bleak London winter, sparks fly.
Winifred and Court are two misfits in their own circumscribed worlds—the fashionable beau monde with its rigorously upheld rules, and the gritty demimonde, where survival often means life-or-death choices.
Despite their conflicting backgrounds, they fall desperately in love while acknowledging the impossibility of remaining together. Returning to their own worlds, they try to make peace with their lives until a moment of unrestrained honesty and defiance threatens to topple the deceptions they have carefully constructed to protect each other.
A story of the overlapping entanglements of Victorian London’s social classes, the strength of family bonds and true friendship, and the power of love to heal a broken spirit.
To Virgins, to Make Much of Time
With a howl, the man flung the wash jug against the wall. Winifred stopped crying. A mess of cheap, broken china scattered the floor. Water dribbled down the wall. The man clutched the washstand, his head bowed. “I wanted to wear you out, so’s I could get some rest. You’re so pig-’eaded! I wasn’t goin’ to ’urt you. Couldn’t you see that?”
“No,” she answered in a small voice. “You’re too rough.”
The man nodded and offered a rag from the basin. She shook her head. “I don’t mean to be. I likes softness. I wants it, but it’s roughness I’m used to.”
Winifred considered what “softness” might mean to him. “Well, it’s not the way I’m used to being treated.”
Court heard the quiet defiance and liked her for it. She refused to be broken. He felt in his pocket for his neckerchief and dipped it in the basin. “Your face, let me see what I done.”
“No, don’t!” Her voice wavered.
Court knelt, holding out both his hands. He edged forward very slowly, coming at her from the side. She pressed as far back as possible into the corner and lifted her chin, grimacing and eyeing him with equal caution. Suddenly, he had her. “Let me see,” he said in his low, gruff voice.
“Oh, that stings!” Wincing, she tried to push away his hand. He ignored this. His touch was assured, his tone dry and matter-of-fact…Winifred drew the other blanket around her and huddled inside her cloak. Long minutes passed.
How strange that out of that human tide, this one soul and hers had been swept together. She took off her cloak and tapped his arm.
Court sat up. “What? ’Ere, don’t cry! Geoff won’t be back for ages.”
She wiped her cheeks and held out her cloak. “I’m not! It’s the cold. Here, take half.”
Court was surprised, not to mention grateful. He felt in his pocket for his neckerchief. “You’re not afraid o’ much, are you? Too spoiled or too stupid, I’ll be bound. Not many could’ve stood up to Geoff in that alley. And you gave me ’ell!” He smiled and touched the tip of her nose with the wet cloth, and she gave the smallest smile in return. “There now, that’s better.”
The woman raised her eyes. “You’re not going to let me go, are you?” she whispered.
Court dabbed gently at the bright welt. He almost wished he had never seen those eyes—almost, but not quite. “I can’t.”
Review your publisher and publishing experience. What did you like? What would you change?
Bellastoria Press is a hybrid press that was started in 2014 by two authors, Ann Defee and Linda Cardillo. They were introduced at a party by their Harlequin editor and later joined by Vana Nespor, a playwright and nonfiction author. They’ve published women’s fiction, romance, historical fiction, memoir, and many other genres. They’ve won multiple awards, as have their writers.
When Ms. Cardillo’s acceptance email for my manuscript came last April, I was so pleased but also surprised. I’d researched and corresponded with other editors for months, trying to find the right fit. I know authors who have self-published and others who have worked with larger houses. Ms. Cardillo explained their editing services and publishing process. She also directed me toward another hybrid press so that I could make my own comparisons.
I knew Ms. Cardillo’s First Light series, and I reviewed Bellastoria’s other writers and their books. I was excited to be asked aboard! Mostly, however, it is their team’s openness, ready communication, and warm enthusiasm that have kept an ofttimes frustrating learning-curve an exciting one as well.
They read my whole book, which is long for a first-time writer, and worked with me through the editing to keep the story intact. We collaborated on the book cover, and their support during the publishing and promotion process has been both insightful and extremely helpful.
What’s your favourite rainy day movie?
I’m going to tweak this prompt a bit because I have so many favorites!
This winter was extremely rainy down South, and at our house we curled up and enjoyed Miss Scarlet and the Duke on the cold, damp Sunday nights. Of course, we could’ve streamed it, but we still remember when you had to wait for your favorite show to air. The anticipation was half the fun, as was talking about it the next morning with friends at school. There were only four channels back then, and one was always full of “snow.”
“Are they ever going to kiss?” my mother-in-law complained the last time we watched.
“That would ruin it!” my husband shouted. “They have to keep the tension going for another season.”
While I love a romance with a bit of spice and am sure that when detective Eliza Scarlet finally lays one on Detective Inspector William Wellington, she’ll knock his socks off, it’s too much fun watching them spar, with her usually getting the better of him. He gets mad so beautifully. When I took acting classes in college, my teachers always wanted me to blow up like that, but I came across like Jerry Seinfeld. I would love to have seen Stuart Martin’s screen tests.
“Could you do that again, Mr. Martin? Even louder, this time?”
Plus, they can’t kiss yet because I can’t wait to see what further brambles the writers will sow into their already thorny relationship. In a way, the show reminds me of some of my PBS favorites when I was a child. The cast is small, the scripts tight, and the limited sets evoke a much larger world. We wouldn’t mind roaming the murky London streets with Miss Scarlet and the Duke for a second season.
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M. C. Bunn is a writer of Victorian romance and historical romance novels, a singer (in the indie rock band Mister Felix), and a songwriter. She holds an English degree from UNC-Chapel Hill and a master’s in English from North Carolina State University.
"I've always loved writing. It's a joy to do what makes me happy and to share it.
“My father was a great story-teller. He read to us at the dinner table and passed on his love of history. He’d haul me out of bed in the middle of the night if there was a great old movie on the late show, and family trips always included visits to historic sites. His father was born in 1888, and I have Granddaddy's letters to his bride-to-be in my dresser. I'm working on the story of Daddy's first ancestor in America. It's set in Jamestown, 1690. My mother's grandmother was placed in an orphanage after the Civil War because her father died on the way home, so I always felt that connection to and had a curiosity about the past. Both of my parents read to me before I could walk. Daddy gave me Dickens, Twain, and Stevenson. Mama put the dictionary in my hands and let me watch I, Claudius and Shoulder to Shoulder when they first aired on Masterpiece Theatre. She told me I'd be a writer one day.”
Acting was another girlhood passion. “I wanted to play all the characters in the books I'd read, or in the stories I made up, like Dickens and Louisa May Alcott did. I also wanted to be an archaeologist because we knew one who worked on digs in Israel. There was never a time when I wasn't making up a story, and it was always set 'a long time ago.' What I really wished for was the car in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, so I could fly back in time and see what it was actually like for women in Victorian and Edwardian England.”
When she's not writing, she loves reading long old books. "I love Anthony Trollope's series, and Anna Karenina. Of more recent vintage, I really enjoyed The Forsyte Saga and The Raj Quartet."
Her idea of a well-appointed room includes multiple bookshelves, a full pot of coffee, and a place to lie down and read. To feed her soul, she takes a walk or makes music with friends. "I try to remember to look up at the sky and take some time each day to be thankful."
She lives in North Carolina with her husband and their dog. Where Your Treasure Is is her first published novel.