The Runaway Debutante is now in KU!

Good news for book lovers enrolled in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program. My new release, The Runaway Debutante, is available to read for free with your Kindle Unlimited subscription, now through April 24, 2021!

Not in KU? Grab a copy in print, large print or digital, and find out why readers are leaving rave reviews for this sweeping, Dickens-inspired romance.

 “I fell in love with the main hero and heroine, Alex and Constance. The story was well developed, and had just the right amount of twists and turns, and ups and downs to keep my interest piqued and often had a hard time putting it down. There were even some twists I honestly didn’t see coming.”  Amazon and Goodreads reviewer

“A story of star-crossed lovers throughout the worst hardships of the Victorian world – life on the streets, living with and as pickpockets to survive, a crime lord/Fagin-type character, his heavies, a brothel, a loathsome upper class suitor, murder charges, Newgate prison. Like an in-depth look at the Victorian London of Dickens and Oliver Twist – and yet this is just the first part.” Goodreads and BookBub reviewer

cover of The Runaway Debutante by Elizabeth Harmon

A courageous Lady. An honorable thief. A forbidden love they can’t deny.

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Capping off a long, strange year

For a writer, admitting you don’t have the right words is tough. As I stare at this white space and to fill it, I face the same problem I’ve had over the last six months.

How to contain and process 2020 into a blog post? Impossible, though many writers more eloquent than me have tried. Railing about politics, shutdowns, and our leaders’ actions, will only spark argument with someone who thinks differently. After months, if not years, of arguing, I’m tired of it. I think we all are.

Talking about good things, usually my default, doesn’t feel quite right either. That’s not to say there haven’t been blessings for which I’m incredibly grateful. But too many are weighed down with struggles that seem insurmountable. There’s lots of anger, lots of fear and few answers.

That’s why lately I’ve found the past a more comfortable place to be. The TV shows we’ve binged, most recently The Queen’s Gambit, have all taken me to a different time and place. I’ve been reading historical romance and historical fiction almost exclusively.

I’ve been writing it, too. The book I’ve just released, The Runaway Debutante, is set in the 1870s. It’s sequel, The Backstairs Heiress, takes place 20 years later.

cover of The Runaway Debutante by Elizabeth Harmon

Historical fiction allows me to immerse myself in a real-life world that’s far removed from my own, and in the lives of characters who are also facing difficult times. While The Runaway Debutante is for the most part, a feel-good story, it’s set in the gritty East End of London, among folks who’ve turned to crime to survive. An emerging theme of The Backstairs Heiress is the struggle women of the early 20th century faced in trying to pursue their dreams.

Yet the characters ultimately triumph, and find their happily ever afters, just as many real-life people have during challenging times in the past.

So at the end, I’m clinging to hope. Hope for healing, for peace and for good things in the future. They’ve always come before, and I have faith they will again.

What’s helping you through 2020? What are you most looking forward to in 2021?

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The Way Cool Antarctic Top 10

By Elizabeth Harmon

Heating It Up cover- small town romance set in Antarctica

Like Nora, the heroine of Heating It Up: A Red Hot Russians Novella, I had a great time discovering the book’s incredibly cool setting, Amity Bay, Antarctica.  Though Amity Bay is a fictional place, I used several real life research stations as inspiration and used my imagination to fill in the rest.  When a couple of experts reviewed my manuscript, I was very happy to know I’d gotten it right.

While Antarctica has no native population, and even during the peak summer season, boasts fewer than 10,000 residents, its natural wonder makes it an amazing place.  Though Nora is new to “the Ice” she finds a lot to love about the place.

The Top 10 Coolest Things Nora Discovers in  Antarctica

Red Waterfalls, Green Ice Burgs– They come in all shapes, sizes and even colors.  Arriving on a chartered boat, Nora spots a rare bottle green iceberg, and sketches it. The ethereal green color actually comes from ancient trapped plankton, but she thinks it looks like crushed emeralds.

Penguins– They’re cute, noisy, smelly and they mate for life.

The Seasons Are Backward– Because Antarctica lies in the southern hemisphere, seasons there are the opposite of seasons in the north — summer runs from October to February and winter covers the remainder of the year.

Southern Lights– Also known as aurora australis, the best time to view the Southern Hemisphere’s version of the Northern Lights is from May through September.

Mystery– Love weird stuff? Antarctica has plenty, such as a mountain range the size of the Alps that’s buried completely beneath the ice, abandoned cabins and ghost towns,  never seen before life forms living in sub-glacial lakes

Beer– The world’s most expensive beer was brewed using a melted Antarctic iceburg.

The Men!–  With 30 different countries operating research stations on the continent, there’s international flavor everywhere you go. Amity Bay is run by a Canadian science foundation, but its residents come from the U.S., Canada, the UK, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Germany and more.

The TransAntarctic Film Festival– It’s real name is slightly different, but despite the lack of costumes, scenery or a shooting schedule longer then 48 hours, this continent-wide amateur film competition challenges research stations to create original short films and posting them online.  The award-winning British film described in Heating It Up actually exists. Check out Rise of The Snowmen here.

Want more? Check out this post, and read Heating It Up!

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Why Good Girls Love Bad Boys

Show of hands… who loves a bad boy hero?

Yep, me too.

There’s something about putting myself in the shoes of a heroine drawn to a sexy man she knows she shouldn’t want, yet she just can’t stay away from.

Maybe he’s a rock star with a bad reputation. Maybe he’s a biker, who lives outside society’s mainstream.  Maybe he came from a good family, and grew up with every advantage, but then something in his life went very, very wrong.

As the heroine walks his dangerous path, we breathlessly turn the pages, waiting for him to be redeemed by love.

I started as a historical romance fan and adored reading about rakes, rogues and the proper ladies who fall for them. When I turned to contemporaries, I found so many bad boy heroes, I would never run out.

But the ones I love best aren’t the extreme Alphas who star in so many dark romances. If the Kindle best seller lists are any indication, obsessive, possessive billionaire hitmen have lots of fans, but I just don’t happen to be one of them.

The bad boy I like the best has been through hell but still has his heart and humanity intact. He’s got charisma, he’s got courage. He’s a scarred, tattooed survivor. He plays by his own rules and somehow, seems to land (mostly) on his feet.

While the rest of the world might see him as a dangerous outsider, the heroine knows that on the inside, the bad boy is a good man.

He helps her step outside her safe world, and she knows that if things go wrong, he’ll be there to set them right. He’s seen the worst of life and lived to tell about it. And if he’s still trapped in a hell of his own making, she can be the reason he needs to change.

Those are qualities I’ve tried to bring to the hero of Shining Through, the fifth book in my Red Hot Russians contemporary romance series.

cover of Shining Through by Elizabeth Harmon

U.S. figure skating champion Tabitha Turner has spent her life living up to others’ (and her own) high expectations. Heading into her final competitive season, she’s feeling the pressure and keenly aware of everything that she’s sacrificed in order to become one of the world’s top skaters. When she meets Russian skater Daniil Andreev, she’s drawn like a magnet, despite his reputation for trouble.

Daniil, the son of a Russian oligarch and a British supermodel, has spent most of his life rebelling against his family, an oppressive coach, and the Russian sports ministry, which never approved of him. Heading into a Winter Games season he’s determined to put his mistakes behind him and establish himself as a contender for gold.

When Tabitha tempts him to help her take a secret walk on the wild side, he gives her a taste of the freedom she craves, never expecting that one unforgettable night will turn into something more.

One of the things I love most about Daniil and Tabitha is that they accept each other and at the same time, inspire one another to grow and change.

Bad boy Daniil helps Tabitha find the courage to set aside her manufactured Ice Queen image and be true to herself, both in skating and in life. Good girl Tabitha inspires Daniil to set aside his past hurts and never give up on his dream.

Enjoy this excerpt from Shining Through:

“After a tough day on the ice, she’s hitting the hard stuff.”

Daniil Andreev leaned against a tall table, a few feet away. Dressed in skinny jeans, a black leather jacket, and with smudged liner around his eyes, he looked like a member of Green Day who’d wandered into the wrong party.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” she snapped, angry that the mere sight of him brought flushed cheeks and noodle-knees.

He came and stood beside her at the bar. His dark eyes looked that much darker because of the smoky color surrounding them. His lashes were so long, she wondered if he was wearing mascara too. Regardless, it took nothing away from his masculinity. It took guts and confidence to carry off the look. Daniil had both.

“Nothing bad, I promise. I enjoyed your program today.”

Tabitha shut off her phone. “I’m glad someone did.”

“I’ve been where you are.” He spoke in a quiet voice and leaned closer. She caught a whiff of Polo Black. He would have to wear her favorite men’s fragrance. “Not only are you disappointed for not skating as well as you hoped, you feel you disappointed others.”

She tried to shrug off the hurt. “No one said this season would be easy.”

“Are any of them?”

His penetrating gaze searched to see behind her public face. Too bad for him, she was a pro at keeping it hidden. She stirred the ice in her drink and offered a careful smile. “So you’ve been where I am. How did you deal with it?”

“I used it as motivation to prove everyone wrong and did what I had to do to stay in the sport. Even things that hurt my pride.”

This sounded intriguing. “Like what?”

“Like training in Lake Shosha, instead of Moscow or Petersburg.” His casual shrug suggested there might be other things, but pushing for more seemed rude. Nor was she sure she wanted to know. “Anyway, three seasons ago, everyone thought my career was over. Everyone except me. Now, I’m on the verge of making it to Grenoble. Whether I get there because of bronze medals, or gold, I’m there just the same.”

Tabitha knew she put too much pressure on herself, but her entire career had been about succeeding against the odds and you didn’t do that without striving for perfection. “Until today, not making the team was just this vague notion I tried not to think about. Now it feels like something that could really happen. But I can’t let it. I’ve worked too hard to fail now.”

“You aren’t going to fail.”

He spoke slowly, enunciating each word. His tone was gentle, but insistent. He believed in her, and she felt bolstered by it, even if she didn’t share it. “You sound so sure.”

His gaze held hers, and a spark of attraction flew between them. “I am.

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An Interview with Nick Zaccardi, Bad Boy Extraordinaire

Book Cover Hardest to Love by Sidney Ivens
Available exclusively on Amazon

Against my better judgement, I’ve invited sports bar owner and Windy City bad boy Nick Zaccardi to be a special guest on Ramblings of A Writer Girl.

Fans of my Red Hot Russians series know that I prefer book boyfriends who behave like gentleman. My good friend Sidney Ivens on the other hand, likes ’em rough around the edges, even if they’re wearing $1000 suits.

And since we’re celebrating “Hardest to Love,” her fabulous debut contemporary romance this month, I’d like to introduce you to Nick, her bearded, blunt alpha hero. I hope you like him as much as a certain women’s studies professor is going to. Click here to enter the giveaway  

Hi, Nick and welcome to Ramblings of a Writer Girl.
NICK: Elizabeth. Liz. I hear you only write “nice guys.” The white hat types. Friendzone guys. Non-threatening genitalia.

Non-threatening what? This is a PG website, Mr. Zaccardi! And my heroes are nice AND hot.
NICK:  (shakes head) Good for you. Just a heads-up. I’m not so nice. Your readers aren’t used to guys like me.    

Don’t be so sure about that. My readers enjoy all kinds of books, and are no stranger to your kind! So,what’s this I hear about you disrupting a women’s studies lecture?

NICK: Look. Normally I’d never be caught dead at a “women’s studies group.” That’s my special idea of hell, a coven of unshaven, snarling man-haters. The only reason – and I mean, the ONLY reason – I’d ever set foot near a women’s studies course is for the real estate. Location, location, location.

See that wheezer of a bookstore over there? It’s failing. And it’s got my name written all over it. Soon you’ll be seeing my new sports bar in its place. First, get me past all these – handmaidens – so I can take on their ringleader.
Wait. Let me get a good look at her. (narrows golden-colored eyes)
Niiiice. That’s some ringleader. And get this. She’s a professor. Hot and naïve and tweed for brains. Putty in my hands. She’ll be signing over the deed in no time.

Hmm. We’ll see about that. She doesn’t look like a pushover to me. What makes you such an expert on the topic? On what women really want?
NICK:  You’d be surprised how good I am at figuring out what women want. (devil-grins)

O-kay…we’ll let everyone read the book to learn more about THAT! On to a safer topic, if you don’t mind! As someone who’s at the top of the hospitality business, food has special meaning for you. Can you tell us about your favorite dish, and the best time and place to enjoy it?

NICK: Hey, I’m Italian. Of course food’s special. Marinara runs through my veins. Hmm. Favorite dish. Something soft and sweet and spicy. Like dessert, for instance. Picture something chocolate-y with whipped cream on a room service table, next to an unmade California king sized bed and strewn clothes.

The professor’s strewn clothes, if things go according to plan. 

Click here for a chance to win a digital copy of Hardest to Love, or a print copy signed by author Sidney Ivens!

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New project, new perspective

Seriously, it’s time to take the Christmas posts down! Though the real-life decorations have been packed away since early January, here on Ramblings of A Writer-Girl, it’s still December.

Yikes. Gotta change that, as well as post a new giveaway! Watch for details in my newsletter this weekend.

I do have an excuse, though.  I’ve been hard at work on The Thief of Hearts, my new historical romance. Beta reader notes have come back, and I’ve begun the search for a developmental editor.

But yesterday, while zoning out on social media, I ran across a blog post that really made me think.

The topic is how Georgette Heyer has defined the modern historical romance novel, for better and for worse.

As you might have guessed, the “worse” is the genre’s lack of diversity. While there were certainly plenty of people of color and various religions living in Regency and Victorian England, they’re pretty much invisible when it comes to HR. The same can be said for those with disabilities, and folks who aren’t part of the ton.

This isn’t a new topic of course, but reading it while I’m at work on a HR made me take a hard look at my own book. Sure enough, it’s pretty white. However, there are characters whose race is never defined. One in particular seems ripe for recasting, so I’m doing research to see how I might approach this.  What would his name be? What kind of backstory would he have? How would he relate to the other characters, and they to him?

A later chapter includes a young boy with an intellectual disability. Am I being respectful to this character, or unconsciously falling back on stereotypes?

So yeah, still lots of work to do.

But when it comes to economic diversity, I felt really encouraged. While the heroine comes from the aristocracy, she willingly joins a world that’s a lot more Dickens than Heyer. She falls in love with a street thief whose fortunes eventually change, but instead of becoming a self-made millionaire, or a duke’s long-lost son, he becomes a servant.

For a long time, I wondered if characters like these could find a place in Historical Romance. But butlers and schoolteachers deserve a happily ever after, just as much as dukes and duchesses. The great thing about self-publishing is there’s room for new and different stories. I can’t wait to share this one with you.

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A Few of My Favorite (Holiday) Things

I’d hoped to have a post ready to go when I launched my December giveaway, but this time of year can be hectic, as we all know.

While I haven’t been writing as much since the end of National Novel Writing Month, I have been getting ready for the holidays. Our tree is up, some of the gifts are bought, gatherings are being planned, sappy movies are being watched.

So I’ll share a few of my holiday related favorite things!

Favorite ornaments:

This little Santa dates from the 1940s and was on my mom’s tree when she was a child. The little blue house beside it is one I remember from childhood. When I was in college, my mom would set it aside for me to hang on the tree when I came home.
My husband gave me this Nativity ornament the first year we were married. It’s hung on every one of our trees since. I made the gum wrapper garland when I was in sixth grade, and yes, I chewed most of the Juicy Fruit myself.

Favorite holiday movie

It’s a Wonderful Life
I have no idea how many times I’ve seen it, but I still get teary at the end.

Favorite present:

Mango, who joined our family in December, 2014 after my husband heard me squeal over an orange tabby in a TV commercial, and decided I needed one of my own.

Favorite holiday special:

Scrawny trees, a great musical score, Snoopy dancing and a Christmas pageant gone bad.

Favorite Cookie:

Nothing fancy, just the iced sugar cookies made with the dented cookie cutters we used as kids.

What are some of your favorite holiday things?

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A Writer Girl Kills Her Darling

Map of 1880s London, with notes

Writing fiction ain’t for sissies. Sometimes, it means killing something you love.

Since September, I’ve been editing “The Thief of Hearts,” the Victorian-set historical romance I wrote before selling my Red Hot Russians series. Set in 1870s London, its the story of a runaway debutante determined to start an independent life, and the charming street thief with whom she falls in love.

On Friday, I reached a pivotal scene. In the original manuscript, it was handled as a prologue, told from the point of view of a non-central character. I thought it was an interesting, and unconventional way to start a novel. Mostly, it was a bad calculation by a newbie author, and routinely questioned by critiques and contest judges. Still I remained loyal to the scene, which was the first creative thing I’d written in ten years.

Flashback to Labor Day, 2009. After a summer-long historical romance binge, I craved a cross-class trope with a wealthy heroine and a hero who had nothing. Needless to say, there weren’t a lot of books fitting this description.

On a bike ride, the main characters and opening scene of this non-existent book came alive in my mind. After the ride, I wrote the scene. Later that night, I read it, and said, “damn, that’s good.”

Six months later, I finished the book. At RWA 2010, I landed an agent, who pitched it to editors. In a pre-Downton Abbey market, few saw an audience for a Charles Dickens/Upstairs Downstairs mash-up. I shelved the book, wrote about figure skaters in contemporary Russia, and life went on.

But now that I’m preparing to self-publish Thief, I realize that my beloved prologue has to be folded into the story, and retold from the heroine’s point of view. Which brought me to Kill-Your-Darlings time.

It’s tough to cut a scene you love, even tougher to cut a scene that brought you back to writing after a long time away. There’s a bit of irony in that I’m coming back from a hiatus this time, too. Not ten years, but long enough.

In any case, I want to honor the scene by sharing it with you. I realize this has been a longer than usual post, so if time doesn’t permit reading on, I understand. For those who do, THANK YOU! It means more than you know.

The Thief of Hearts


London, November 1871

The journalist had bloody well seen enough.

Newgate Prison was no better than a dungeon, a stone hulk of wild-eyed men, slump-shouldered women, and ragged children, whose chief crime was poverty. Man’s inhumanity to man was apparent, even in these supposedly enlightened times.

“You sure you don’t want to see more, Mr. Collins? I din’ get to show you where I keep the Tiger Bay Slasher boxed up. All o’ London can feel safe ‘cause me, Head Gaoler William X. MacAffee, got that fiend under lock and key. Tha’s ‘X’ for Xavier and MacAffee, spelt wi’ two ee’s at the end.”

“A tempting offer Mr. MacAffee, but I really must be going.” In his notebook, he jotted down a few words. “Headline hungry braggart.”

MacAffee removed a large ring of jingling keys from his belt and unlocked the door to his office. Collins followed him in to retrieve his umbrella. The weather had taken a fearsome turn after almost summerlike conditions yesterday. Cold rain made the entire place reek with a noxious bouquet of unwashed flesh, urine and infection. He couldn’t wait to be gone.

But the office was crowded with people; a pair of turnkeys, two well-dressed gentlemen who were likely barristers and a genteel young woman.

 How odd.

She was a pretty lass, in a fur-trimmed red coat. The younger of the two men, a stiff-jawed fellow, exquisitely turned out in a fine black overcoat, held her arm. She pulled away.“Father, I have to see him! I can’t leave until I do!

“Constance, my dear,” he answered in smooth, placating tones. “I brought you here as you insisted, to speak with Mr. Morgan. Now that you have done so, you must trust him to do his job and forget all about this wretched experience.”

 “Forget?” Her bitter laugh sounded strange, coming from a well-bred young lady. “Father, I can’t possibly forget.” She turned to the other gentleman. “Mr. Morgan, I need to see him and I won’t leave until he’s brought to me.”

MacAffee prattled on but Collins strained to hear what the father and Mr. Morgan were whispering in the corner. The father heaved a sigh and gave the barrister a short nod, as if he’d agreed to something, but wasn’t happy about it. At last, MacAffee shut up and they both watched the barrister signal one of the turnkeys.

“Right away, gov’nor,” said the turnkey. He and the other guard disappeared behind a heavy oak door at the opposite end of the room.

MacAffee blew his red nose into a filthy handkerchief, then cocked his head towards the gentlemen and the daughter, who stood apart from them, arms crossed. “Bad business, that,” he said in a low voice. “Society girl, kidnapped by an East End ruffian. Made ‘er do God knows what and ruined ‘er, sure as I stand ‘ere.”

Less eager to leave now, Collins turned to a fresh page in his notebook. “You don’t say?”

“Caught ‘im on the docks, tryin’ to smuggle her out o’ the country.” The gaoler leaned closer, cheap gin heavy on his breath. “Bloke ‘ad already killed a man.”    

A moment later, the turnkeys returned with a prisoner, not much older than the girl. Tall and lean, he had the hard eyes of an East End hooligan. Filthy ragged clothes, Collins wrote. Unfashionably long blond hair. Shackled hand and foot, a chain locked round his waist.

The guard holding the chain shoved him into the room. MacAffee chuckled. “Seems the saucy minx wants to confront him what stole ‘er virtue.” He stuck his finger in his ear and scratched.

Pencil poised above his notebook, Collins stood ready to take down every vile accusation the young woman hurled at the fiend. Instead, she rushed forward and embraced him. Collins’ shock was nothing compared to her father’s.

The girl pressed her cheek against the young man’s chest. “Oh, Alex thank God! I was afraid I’d never see you again.” Gazing up at him, she caressed his face. “Are you all right? Have they hurt you?”

The young man kissed her palm and his harsh expression gentled. His eyes were closed, one corner of his mouth lifted in a bleak smile. “I’m fine, luv. I’m all right. God, it’s good to see you, Connie. I miss you so much.”

She tugged at the chain around him, as if she could break it with her small hands. “I’m going to get you out of here. You shouldn’t be in here for something…” Her voice trembled and grew thick with tears. Again, she wrapped him in her arms and pressed her face to his chest.

The chains on Alex’s wrists rattled as he fought against them. His furrowed brow and grim mouth revealed his anguish at being unable to hold her. He murmured soft words of comfort as she clung to him. “Sshh, it’s all right, Connie. Don’ cry, luv. Everything’s gonna be all right.”

But it clearly was not all right. Collins couldn’t look away.

The girl took a deep breath and wiped her eyes with a lace-trimmed handkerchief. Then she clutched Alex’s arms and looked up at him, a determined set to her lovely face. “I’ll find a way to free you, I swear. I’ve told my father everything.”    

“No!” He was adamant, rattling his chains again. “Damn it, Connie you promised. You can’t save me and even if you try, it’s too late. I’ve already confessed and no matter what you tell them, I’ll just deny it.”

Now here was a story. This girl had not been kidnapped. The young couple shared a secret—something for which the lad was willing to risk the gallows. What could it be? Whom did he kill? Just as intriguing, how did a pampered rich girl come to know and possibly even love, a penniless boy from the East End stews?

He scribbled as fast as he could, making special note of the despair in Alex’s voice.

“This would have happened one way or another. At the hands of the Count or the Crown, it ends the same for me. But at least you still have a future.”

“Yes, I do have a future. With you in America, as your wife. My father and Mr. Morgan have promised you the best defense money can buy.”

Collins glanced up, in time to see her father’s eyes widen. He turned to Morgan, who replied with a subtle shake of his snow-white head. Over the girl’s head, Alex cast a hard look at the two older men. Neither would meet his eye.

 An ominous sign.

Then he shifted his gaze back to Constance, nestled against him. A handsome lad, his fate might have been altogether different, had he not been born into poverty. For the second time, a heart-wrenching mix of bitterness, despair and intense love played across his features. Alex shut his eyes tightly and pressed his lips together. When he seemed to have himself under control, he spoke tenderly to her. “’Course they have. Before you know it, we’ll be together again, just like we planned. ‘Til then, do something for me would you, luv?”

“Anything,” she whispered.

“Don’t blame yourself for what happened, and try not to be too sad. You gave me so much, showed me I could have a future and a beautiful, smart society miss to share it with. You are everything I ever wanted, and no matter how this turns out, I’ll not regret a day of it.” He brushed his lips against her hair, and breathed deeply, as if he were trying to capture every last essence of her. “I will always love you, Lady Constance.”

“I love you, Alex.” Smiling up at him, she slid her arms around his neck and kissed him. Not a chaste peck, but a lingering lover’s kiss. The journalist scribbled, “…a kiss no Mayfair debutante ought to lavish on a ragged Cockney.”  

“Now see here, Constance!” Her red-faced father sputtered with rage. The barrister placed a hand on his arm but he shook it off and charged forward to claim his daughter. She ignored him and ran her gloved hands through Alex’s hair.

Then the guard holding the chain jerked it backward, wrenching the young man from her arms. She cried out as Alex stumbled, but managed to keep his balance. For a moment, he seemed to forget his shackles and charged in the turnkey’s direction. In an instant, the other guard pulled a short club from his belt and beat him across the back and shoulders, forcing him to his knees. Constance’s eyes grew wide, and she struggled as her father grabbed her by the arms and pulled her back.

Ghastly sounds of the cudgel striking Alex’s body and his low groans of agony filled the room. Then Constance’s scream drowned out both. “Stop it! You’re hurting him! Stop!!!”

The first guard unlocked the heavy door. His partner grasped the chain at the small of Alex’s back and hauled him up like a sack of bones. They shoved him through the door.  Fear and defeat were etched on his face.

This was no murderer.This was an East London lad whose fate rested in the hands of two swells keen to see him dance at the end of a rope.  Just the sort of vile injustice Collins had founded The London Reformer to expose.

 Constance was crying now. Her father stood between her and the prison door, but she shouted over his shoulder to anyone who would listen. “Please, let him go! He’s innocent, he didn’t kill anyone! It was me! I swear to God it was me! Alex, I love you!”

But Alex was gone, swallowed by the impenetrable walls of Newgate Prison. Desperately, she clutched the lapels of her father’s overcoat. “Please, Father. We have to help him. I love him. I love him more than anything.” Her words collapsed into sobs as she buried her face against him.

Even as he patted her shoulder, the father wore a calculating expression. He and the barrister exchanged knowing glances. “There, there, dearest. You’re obviously overwrought. Of course, we will help your…friend. Mr. Morgan will do all he can. Come, it’s time to go home.” He circled his arm around her shoulders and guided her out the door.

Collins turned to MacAffee. “What will happen to him?”

 The gaoler answered with a malevolent chuckle and blew his nose again.  “Why, Mr. Collins, ain’t it obvious? He’ll hang.”

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Live From Chicago, it’s Saturday Night!

Elizabeth backstage at Second City

This weekend was a bit of a nostalgia trip. Saturday evening, my husband and I went to see our son’s college improv troupe perform at The Second City.

Back in the mid to late 1980s, I lived in the nearby Lincoln Park neighborhood, took improv classes, and had the thrill of appearing in a couple of shows at The Second City. These were student shows, not the professional troupe, but being backstage in the same cramped room where John Belushi, Bill Murray and other legends once hung out, is something I’ll never forget.

The Second City’s home at Piper’s Alley looks a lot different (read, nicer) than it did back then, with small theaters, rehearsal rooms and collaborative work spaces on the upper floors. The auditorium-style seats in the photo above have probably made a great backdrop for more than one cast picture.

The best part was watching my 20-year-old son onstage doing improv, something he started his freshman year of high school. Improv is equal parts fun and terrifying. Some nights it works, some nights it doesn’t and you don’t know the next line until you’re saying it. My son and his teammates rocked it, and gave a great show. My husband and I couldn’t have been prouder.

Gabe backstage at Second City

So here’s to the next generation of improv in the family! I can’t wait for the next show.

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A Writer Girl Looks Ahead

Wow! It’s been a busy summer, especially this past month. I loved celebrating my new website with all of you– thanks again to everyone who entered– and also presented to the Indiana Romance Writers on goal setting. That motivated me to push for some goals of my own.

I’m happy to report that I completed all five, though it took until 3:30 p.m. on the last day of the month to do it. But I’m especially excited about completing Goal #2: “Read Thief.”

“Thief” refers The Thief of Hearts, a Victorian-set historical romance I wrote before my Red Hot Russians series sold. At the time, my agent advised me to focus on contemporary romance for the foreseeable future. But now that Red Hot Russians is complete, and I’m self-publishing, the time feels right to take another look at Thief.

After reading it, I’m happy to say that I love the book as much as I did when I set it aside in 2014. It still needs some work, (and possibly a new title), but the story of an earl’s daughter who flees an arranged betrothal only to fall for a Cockney street thief with a heart of gold, still captivated me. It’s a mash-up of Oliver Twist, Downton Abbey, with a dash of two of my all-time favorite historical romances: Lisa Kleypas’ “Dreaming of You,” and “The Proposition” by Judith Ivory.

I hope to share Constance and Alex’s story with you someday soon.

I’ll be working on edits this fall as well as reading the sequel, which I expect is in much rougher shape. Ideally, I’d like to publish them close together, but no decision or timeline yet. Right now, it’s a fond farewell to August, and summertime, as I head out with my husband to see our favorite Beatles tribute band.

In the immortal words of John Lennon, “All You Need Is Love.”

Happy Labor Day, everyone!

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