Excerpt and contest

Today it’s all about me me me, mainly blatant self promotion since I have a spiffy updated website with a ludicrously easy contest. Check it out!

I’ve been very busy rewriting an early attempt to crack the romance code, The Malorie Phoenix, which is coming out in a month or so. My first version(s) included a scene where a kitten came to an untimely end which I was told would turn the whole world against me, and after much thought I rewrote. Folks, the kitten gets better and we lose interest in him. Would it have been a dealbreaker for you? What IS a dealbreaker for you? Is it, for instance, having a heroine who is a criminal and in a just world should be punished by transportation or hanging?

You be the judge. Get out that black cap! Here’s the beginning of the book:


August, 1801, Vauxhall Gardens, London

Her name was Jenny Smith.

It denoted no particular rank, no origin, and was so ordinary most people laughed in disbelief when she identified herself. Let them.

When later they discovered a brooch or bracelet inexplicably lost, the missing expensive embroidered handkerchief, she’d be laughing.

But she rarely revealed herself, knowing that fitting in with her surroundings was vital to her success and survival. By the light of Vauxhall’s lanterns, no one could tell her jewels were colored glass, her gown second hand. And she wore the final guarantee of anonymity–a black satin mask.

Occasionally a man would approach her, mistaking her profession. She smiled and moved away to mingle with the crowd who gathered to see the Cascade at midnight. She could take advantage of the upraised faces and rapt attention, strolling quietly among the crowd as though seeking a lost acquaintance, with a murmured word of apology if she brushed up against someone.

Tonight was a very successful night for her. She did not allow herself to dip a hand into the pocket of her silk gown–it would be foolish to draw attention to herself. A gold brooch–she was fairly sure it was gold not pinchbeck–a bracelet, a couple of fob seals, and two handkerchiefs represented the night’s haul. Her stomach growled. She thought in anticipation of the hearty dinner she would order, but not at Vauxhall’s, notorious for its expensive, thinly-sliced ham and other overpriced refreshments. Possibly she could buy a new gown–this one was good enough for work in the dimly-lit gardens, but the hem was ragged and stained. She rubbed a fold of silk between her fingers, enjoying the softness of the luxurious fabric. Silk from China or some such place, as far away across the sea as her mother and sister now were. Was China near Australia?

Pushing away the momentary loneliness, she strolled a few steps behind a gentleman who, like her, watched the crowd more than the surroundings. She thought at first he might share her profession, but his coat, although of good cut, was old and not particularly fashionable. Probably he was from the country, gentry almost certainly, and not worth the effort, but…

“Beg your pardon, sir.” She brushed against him and moved to one side. Her fingers flitted beneath his coat tails, into the pockets there.



She should go home. She had taken enough. Greed led to carelessness, and carelessness led to discovery, and that could lead to the gallows.

“You require a handkerchief, madam?”

She froze at the murmured words, uttered in a deep, rich voice that reminded her, despite her terror, of the flavor and harshness of sweet, strong coffee.

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Melissa Johnson
10 years ago

Loved the exerpt! 🙂 Now that’s an intriguing beginning!

A heroine who is a criminal out of necessity wouldn’t be a deal breaker…I assume she changes profession. I’m very curious to find out her circumstances and what happens next! I’m amazed (and envious) at how you made her a sympathetic character already. I think it was the touch of lonliness part. Very nice!

Janet Mullany
10 years ago

Thanks, Melissa. I’m considering an alternative ending where the hero tells the heroine he will always love her and turns her over to the magistrate, aka The Maltese Falcon. The sequel will be when he goes to Australia to rescue her.

10 years ago

That is a hard one. Yes she is a thief, but why. Forced into it? No other options? Spiteful? Evil? Too many questions to make a determination. Is she basically a good person and willing to live an honest life? Of course, punishment is appropriate, but during that time period, the punishments were so out of proportion to the crimes. I will be curious to see how her story unfolds.

Louisa Cornell
10 years ago

Fabulous excerpt, as always, Janet! Can’t wait to read this one. There have been plenty of film heroes who were jewel thieves or art thieves. Might be nice to let the girls have a turn!

Yes, we animal lovers tend to shy away from books with bad ends for animals in them. I still won’t watch Old Yeller. Traumatized me terribly as a child.

I’m not a big fan of adultery either. Just not anything romantic about it to me.

And I can’t abide books in which a hero or heroine participates in teasing or making fun of someone who is handicapped. Even if they learn and grow from the experience, it simply isn’t something I care to find, even in the best of character arcs.

Elena Greene
10 years ago

Great beginning, Janet! I have no issue with this heroine as she probably wouldn’t be picking pockets in a just world.

I’m not sure what a deal-breaker would be for me. Mean-spiritedness in hero or heroine, perhaps. I can deal with characters who are misguided, desperate, angry, all sorts of things. But petty cruelty would be hard for me to get past.

Jane George
10 years ago

I love a heroine who is a thief. The craft of her ‘profession’ obviously means a good deal to her. Your excerpt stole my heart!

A deal-breaker for me in hero or heroine is someone who is stupid.

Maria D.
10 years ago

Good excerpt! I like the website makeover too.

10 years ago

One of my favorite book is “Heart of Deception” by Taylor Chase. Elizabethan England in the time of the Babington Plot.

Heroine is a criminal mastermind and not ashamed of it. It’s not as though women had many options in those days.