We’ve got a winner! Congratulations Joannie Sico! You are Karla’s giveaway winner! Karla will be in touch with you. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, and thanks to everyone who came by!
Fellow Tule author, Karla Kratovil is here today with her new release Making the Marquess Mine, a Regency romance that has an unusual twist–the heroine runs away to the circus!
From the time she read fairytales as a child, Karla Kratovil was hooked on stories that ended in happily-ever-after. Now as an author of sexy historical romance she gets to craft her own happy endings. Karla lives right on the edge of Northern Virginia’s wine country with her college sweetheart, two terrific teenagers, and two blond terriers. She is a Taurus. Like any good earth sign she loves good food, good wine, and getting her hands dirty growing things in her garden.
Karla’s got a fun peek at nineteenth-century circus life for us, plus a terrific Giveaway! Just comment below for a chance at an ebook copy of Making the Marquess Mine and a $10 Amazon gift card. Her question: Have you ever wanted to run away with the circus? We’ll draw a winner on Saturday morning.
The floor is yours, Karla…
Have you ever wanted to run away with the circus?
In the newest installment of my Maidens of Marbury series, Making the Marquess Mine, the heroine does just that. Now, a Regency era circus was quite different from what you’re probably thinking. No tigers or elephants or pyrotechnics. This type of circus would become popular in the late 1800s and the first half of the twentieth century. A Regency era circus included acrobats, jugglers, rope dancers, clowns, and strongmen. But the main attraction was the trick riding!
Philip Astley, a British ex-cavalry man, is often credited as the ‘father of the modern circus’. In 1768, he and his wife Patty established Astley’s Riding School in London, where Philip would teach riding in the morning and perform equestrian tricks in the afternoon. Both Philip and Patty were expert riders. One of Patty’s popular tricks involved her circling the ring on horseback at high speed, with swarms of bees covering her hands and arms as if she was wearing a muff!
Astley’s unique mixture of equestrian and acrobatic acts, followed by a pantomime was a huge success. In 1795 Astley opened the Royal Amphitheatre. The Royal Amphitheatre had a stage in addition to the circus ring and the two were interlinked by ramps. This enabled audiences to sit close to the ring. It was said that patrons could feel the horse’s tails swishing by their faces. He is credited with discovering that the ideal size for a circus ring is 42 feet in diameter. This was the optimum size that enabled him to use centrifugal force to help balance on a horse’s back.
In Making the Marquess Mine, Susanna becomes entranced by trick riding after attending a show at Astley’s theater. In fact, she becomes friends with many of the performers and of course gets into some trouble! The book is a rollicking friends-to-lovers, road trip romance that includes all sorts of shenanigans; long lost lovers, a travelling circus, an attempted kidnapping, obsession, trick riding, amnesia, scandal, and of course falling in love. I have an excerpt from the story for you today where our hero sees Susanna perform her tricks for the first time. Check it out below!
Making the Marquess Mine
Miles Weston, the Marquess of Hawksridge, longs for a holiday from his life. He is tired of all the politics in and out of the ballrooms. Ever since his aborted wedding, his aunt has tried to match him with blank-faced debutants at every turn. The only entertaining thing in his overscheduled life is observing the antics of Lady Susanna Ashby, whose beauty and vibrancy brighten the greyest day.
Susanna’s spirit for adventure is matched only by her loyalty to her friends. Determined to help the distractingly handsome, but overwhelmingly serious, marquess, Susanna concocts a plan to distract his matchmaking Aunt Diana. She’ll reunite Diana with her long-lost lover who wrote her passionate letters of love and longing. If only Susanna could discover the whereabouts of the mysterious James Marlow.
As Susanna launches her ill-fated plan, heedless of the danger, her worried friends send Miles to fetch her home. But Susanna has no intention of letting anything derail her quest to find the man from the letters. Not bad weather, broken carriage wheels, or highwaymen. Not even a sexy, managing marquess.
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Miles was still smiling as he walked down the lane that led past where Maddox had set up his circus for the fair. The exercise had invigorated him, and the clue he had discovered to Marlow’s whereabouts had been quite the piece of luck. He whistled as he walked toward the noise of the circus. Dogs barking and the neighing of horses along with Maddox’s booming voice all assailed his ears as he approached. Nothing could have prepared him for what was happening in the ring.
Susanna rode her horse around the ring at a gallop. Well, not exactly rode. She hung off one side of the horse with one foot in the stirrup and one hand on the pommel. Her other arm and leg were outstretched in an arabesque, her hair flowing behind her in a stream of copper fire. He stood rooted to the ground in fear. She was going to fall and be trampled.
She spotted him as she rode past, and her smile bloomed wide as she waved at him. Then as she made another turn around the ring, she swung her leg back over the saddle and rode one more circuit astride before coming to the middle of the circle. She tapped sharply on her horse’s flank with her feet and the horse reared onto its hind legs. Susanna leaned backward over its rump, the waterfall of her hair practically brushing the ground. She gracefully extended an arm above her head as her horse pawed the air.
Miles’s heart seized in his chest.
Applause erupted from all the performers who watched. The horse righted and Susanna was once again upright, her hand still in the air. Excitement buzzed through her, it was thrilling to perform for an audience, even a small one of just her friends. She leaned over to pat Desire’s neck. “You were fabulous, darling.” The horse had as much flair for the dramatic as she did. They trotted over to the entrance to the ring and Susanna dismounted. She handed the reins to Colonel Hadley. “That was exhilarating. Thank you for allowing me to show off.”
Mrs. Maddox approached them. “You were beautiful out there, my dear. I’d put you in the show anytime.”
Susanna felt her cheeks heat. A high compliment from a lady whose discerning eye for talent was well known. “Thank you. I’m flattered but I couldn’t possibly.” She glanced over to where Hawksridge stood on the other side of the ring; his glower could be felt from this distance. “Excuse me.”
She strode around the circle. Why did he look so angry? He needn’t be so disapproving there was no one out here but the circus performers. No one was going to be scandalized by her riding. Wasn’t he impressed? She had worked for months to perfect those tricks. Annoyance bubbled in her chest as she approached him. Why was he such a killjoy? They were on holiday, damn it. By the time she reached him she could practically feel the steam coming out of her ears.
“Hawksridge why do you look like a thundercloud on this beautiful sunny day?”
But he didn’t respond. Instead, he grabbed her arms and pulled her into his embrace. He locked his arms around her, one hand sliding into her hair and pulling her head against his chest. She tried to pull back but his arms were like steel bands trapping her against him.
“Shush. Just give me a moment.”
“Didn’t you like my tricks?” she mumbled against his jacket. She hadn’t realized she cared so much about his opinion until she had spotted him watching.
“That was the most terrifying thing I have ever witnessed.”
“But you have seen Maddox’s performance several times.”
He pulled back slightly but didn’t let her step away, keeping his arms loosely around her waist. “That was never you. Seeing you hang upside down from the rearing horse was like falling off a cliff into an icy ocean. I think all the breath left my body.”
Susanna grinned up at him. “So, you did like it.”
“Definitely not.” His glower returned. “How do you even stay in your seat when you are upside down?”
“I grip the horse tightly with my thighs.”
Miles’s pupils widened until the brown was just a thin rim around the dark depths of his gaze. Susanna began to have trouble finding her own breath as the air between them sizzled. He was like a powder keg of emotions, one with the lid firmly set in place. But she recognized it now, the smoldering behind his gaze. Did she dare light the fuse?