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The Sergeant's Lady by Susanna Fraser

Highborn Anna Arrington has been following the drum, obeying the wishes of her cold, controlling cavalry officer husband. When he dies, all she wants is to leave life with Wellington’s army in Spain behind her and go home to her family’s castle in Scotland.

Sergeant Will Atkins ran away from home to join the army in a fit of boyish enthusiasm. He is a natural born soldier, popular with officers and men alike, uncommonly brave and chivalrous, and educated and well-read despite his common birth.

As Anna journeys home with a convoy of wounded soldiers, she forms an unlikely friendship with Will. When the convoy is ambushed and their fellow soldiers captured, they become fugitives together. The attraction between them is strong, but even if they can escape the threat of death at the hands of the French, is love strong enough to bridge the gap between a viscount’s daughter and an innkeeper’s son?

“The idea of an officer’s wealthy widow falling in love with a heroic common solider is beautifully romantic and heats up the pages right from the beginning.” — The Season for Romance

“historical fiction with a can’t-tear-your-eyes-away-from-it love story at the center” — Julia Spencer-Fleming

Buy at: Carina Press ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Apple ~ Kobo

Susanna Fraser PortraitSusanna Fraser wrote her first novel in fourth grade. It starred a family of talking horses who ruled a magical land. In high school she started, but never finished, a succession of tales of girls who were just like her, only with long, naturally curly hair, who, perhaps because of the hair, had much greater success with boys than she ever did.

Along the way she read her hometown library’s entire collection of Regency romance, fell in love with the works of Jane Austen, and discovered in Patrick O’Brian’s and Bernard Cornwell’s novels another side of the opening decades of the 19th century. When she started to write again as an adult, she knew exactly where she wanted to set her books. Her writing has come a long way from her youthful efforts, but she still likes to give her heroines great hair.

Susanna was born and raised in Alabama and never lost her love for barbecue and SEC football or stopped saying “y’all,” “fixin’ to” and “might could” as her adult life took her to Philadelphia, England, and at last to Seattle, where she now lives with her husband and daughter.

Learn more and connect with Susanna at:
Susanna’s website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Blog

For a complete listing of titles offered in this sale, please visit the Risky Regencies 99 Cent Sale Page.

Greetings! I’m Susanna Fraser, and Elena Greene was kind enough to invite me to be a guest poster here with the Riskies on the third Friday of every month. So I suppose I should begin by telling y’all a little about myself.

It’s all Sean Bean’s fault.

Eleven years ago now, when I was busy writing my first, extremely rough draft of the book that eventually became my second published novel, A Marriage of Inconvenience, my dear Mr. Fraser and I went to see Fellowship of the Ring on its opening weekend at Seattle Cinerama. I loved everything about the movie, but above all I just couldn’t take my eyes off one character.

When I got home, I went straight to the Buffy board that was then my main internet community and said, “WHO is that actor who plays Boromir?”

One of my friends, knowing I was working on a Regency romance, said, “Oh, honey, are you ever in for a treat!” and pointed me straight at the Sharpe’s Rifles series. So I rented them, one by one–I think most of them were videotapes rather than DVDs, since this was Ye Olden Days. Once that was done, I read the Sharpe books and the Aubrey-Maturin series, and, as is my custom since I’m that much of a history geek, decided I needed to learn more about the real history behind my new favorite books.

I haven’t looked back. Every book I’ve written since has had a military hero, and for the second book I wrote (and the first to be published), The Sergeant’s Lady, I couldn’t resist the temptation to make my hero a rifleman. Next thing I knew, my research bookshelves started to look like this…

…and I found myself developing something of a historical crush on this gentleman:

That’s right, Diane Gaston and Kristine Hughes! Consider yourself put on notice that I will not allow you to monopolize my dear Artie’s affections.

I look forward to future posts, when I shall probably talk food, music, football, baseball, and my next book, among other things. But in the meantime, I’ll leave you with some Five Favorites lists. Please feel free to share your favorites in the comments so I can get to know you, too.

My Five Favorite Current TV Shows:
1) The Legend of Korra
2) Castle
3) Game of Thrones
4) The Daily Show
5) Chopped

My Five Favorite Romances Read (but not necessarily published) This Year
1) Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance (not out till November, but I bought the eARC)
2) Catching Jordan
3) Doukakis’s Apprentice
4) The Wives of Bowie Stone
5) My Fair Concubine

Five Authors I Love
1) Jane Austen
2) Lois McMaster Bujold
3) Dorothy Sayers
4) Julia Spencer-Fleming
5) Jacqueline Carey

Five Fictional Crushes
1) Aral Vorkosigan (from Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga)
2) Lord Peter Wimsey (from Dorothy Sayers’ mysteries)
3) Marcus Didius Falco (from Lindsey Davis’s mysteries)
4) Joscelin Verreuil (from Carey’s Kushiel series)
5) Tenzin (from Legend of Korra)

Finally, a warning that I may be a little slow on commenting. I have a day job with little non-work internet access, and my dear Mr. Fraser turns 40 tomorrow. Tonight Miss Fraser (age 8) and I are taking him to a Mariners game, and tomorrow is his party.

Hi, I’m Susanna, and I have trouble with titles.

Not the aristocratic kind. I’ve spent enough time reading and writing the Regency over the past decade that how to speak of dukes, earls, and their relations no longer mystifies me. No, I struggle to name my books.

I’ve now sold four manuscripts, and I’ve yet to have a single one go on sale wearing the first working title to grace my hard drive’s work-in-progress file.

The first book I wrote (the second I sold) began life as Lucy and Mr. Wright. In its first draft, it was a traditional Regency, and the hero was a wealthy but untitled gentleman. Upon further consideration, I promoted James to baronet and renamed the book Lady Wright. Then I realized I wanted to bump James yet higher on the totem pole, so he became James Wright-Gordon, Viscount Selsley. Unfortunately this meant no more clever puns on “Wright,” so I went with The Inconvenient Bride. Years later, as I prepared to submit it to Carina, I decided the title needed a little more oomph and changed it to A Marriage of Inconvenience.

When I started my next manuscript, I was still hung up on those trad-Regency-style titles, so I called it Anna and the Sergeant. However, I quickly realized it just wasn’t a trad story and switched to Soldier’s Lady. Which isn’t a bad title, but it didn’t say, “Get your forbidden star-crossed cross-class lovers here!” quite as loudly as I wanted it to. Hence, The Sergeant’s Lady.

Carina published both those books under the titles I used for submission–possibly because I’d had so long to think them over that I’d actually come up with something good. With my next two sales, my editor’s acceptance email basically read: “Congratulations! We love your book! Your title? NSM. Here’s a worksheet to fill out so we can work together to find something better.”

My November 5 release began life as The General’s Mouse. The hero, Jack, marries the heroine, Elizabeth, upon minimal acquaintance to fulfill a deathbed promise to his best friend. At the time he isn’t seeing her at her best, and he glumly reflects that he’s married a mouse. The rest of the book is all about proving that his so-called mouse has a mighty roar. Clever? Maybe. Based on the title alone, does it sound like a cute kid’s fantasy book about a talking mouse who befriends one of history’s great commanders? Absolutely.

So I brainstormed with my critique partners and filled out the title worksheet. Carina chose one of my suggestions, An Infamous Marriage, which I fully acknowledge is much better than my first choice.

Just this month Carina acquired my first-ever novella. (It took several tries, but eventually my muse accepted that stories can come in sizes other than 90,000 words.) It’s an interracial romance set in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Vittoria in 1813, where some British soldiers made fortunes by plundering the captured French baggage train. The plot revolves around a particularly fine ruby necklace my recently widowed heroine is trying to conceal from the soldiers surrounding her so she can go home to England, sell it secretly, and use the proceeds to buy a happy, secure life for herself and her young son.

At first, I called it Widow’s Fortune. But I soon decided that was too prosaic and changed it to Far Above Rubies, which I thought sounded particularly evocative. It comes from Proverbs 31:10, “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” I saw it as both a literal reference to how the hero cherishes the heroine and a symbol for the characters’ dreams of a better life and how they’re able to fulfill them together.

The editorial team, however, thinks it sounds more like a fantasy than a historical…and I figure they’re the experts, so it’s back to the title worksheet for me!

I’ve come to a place of acceptance where I don’t expect my first idea or two to work. In fact, my current ideas in various stages of brainstorming or drafting go by Home Run Blast from the Past (time travel!), Hell, Frozen Over (a winter survival tale), and The One With the Battle of New Orleans (which opens at–wait for it–the Battle of New Orleans). Now I just have to think of something presentable before they go anywhere near my editor’s inbox…

Over to you–what makes a title good or bad? What are some of your favorites and least favorites?

This is such an exciting day! Our guest today is none other than debut author, Susanna Fraser! Susanna’s been a great supporter of Risky Regencies and we can truly say we knew her when she was simply Susan Wilbanks. Many a time Susan and I have waxed poetic over the Napoleonic War and gushed over Wellington. So it is a very special thrill to announce Susanna’s new Carina Press release, The Sergeant’s Lady, a regency romance set in (what else?) The Napoleonic War!

Susanna is giving away a voucher for a copy of The Sergeant’s Lady to one lucky commenter.

“…entertaining and a delight for readers.” Top Pick! Night
Owl Reviews

“Absolutely delicious and a wonderful reading
experience” The
Reading Reviewer

“If you want to read a great romance and learn
something about the Napoleonic wars, pick up this book!” The

That’s not all the buzz for The Sergeant’s Lady, either. Barbara Vey of Beyond the Book is a great fan of Susanna’s new website. Take a look !

Welcome, Susanna! Tell us about The Sergeant’s Lady.

The lady of the title is Anna Arrington, an aristocratic heiress who, two years before the story opens, marries a handsome cavalry officer after a whirlwind courtship, hoping that life as an officer’s lady will bring her the adventure and significance she’s always longed for. Unfortunately, their relationship quickly sours as he reveals himself to be an abusive, misogynistic jerk. He’s been forcing her to follow the drum in Portugal and Spain because, for reasons it would be spoilery to reveal, he doesn’t trust her very far out of his sight.

When he dies, Anna just wants to go home and put her dreadful marriage behind her, so she joins a convoy of wounded bound for Lisbon. She strikes up an unlikely friendship with Sergeant Will Atkins, one of the soldiers escorting the convoy. They know anything more than friendship between them is impossible…but when the convoy is attacked, they find themselves alone together as fugitives trying to escape across the Spanish countryside to their own army. Under such circumstances, temptation becomes much harder to resist…

We love debut authors. Tell us something about your journey to publication and especially about “The Call.”

I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the Riskies! Really!

I’d been writing seriously since 2001, and I finished my first manuscript in 2003. I had a full measure of newbie arrogance and was confident that publication and success were right around the corner. I was 30 in 2001, and I remember setting a goal of being published by 40, thinking that was just ridiculously easy and maybe I ought to say 35.

As of this writing, I’m 39 years and 8 months. Go figure.

I wrote the manuscript that became The Sergeant’s Lady back in 2005. With it I got an agent in 2006, and she shopped it extensively to print publishers. It came close at a few places but never quite sold. I got positive feedback on my writing, but a strong message that the story itself just didn’t fit any of the niches they were looking to fill.

So I decided that maybe there wasn’t a place for me in romance, parted company with my agent, and tried other things. I spent the better part of 2007-09 on the same alternative history manuscript, which never quite became what I wanted it to be. I think that’s the biggest mistake I made on my road to publication–too much time on that one story. If I had it to do over again, after my second draft I would’ve said, “You know, it’s still not close to right, and maybe that means that the idea wasn’t as wonderful as I thought or I just wasn’t ready to write it yet. I’ll set it aside and do something else, and if I ever want to come back to it, it’ll still be here.” If I’d done that, I’d have 2-3 more manuscripts under my belt by now.

Anyway, back to The Sergeant’s Lady. I happened to re-read it in January, and I thought, “You know, I still love this book. And the historical market seems to have shifted and broadened these past few years. Maybe I’ll submit it to a few more places.”

Here’s where the Riskies come in–around that time, the Riskies posted a Call for Submissions from Carina, with descriptions of what the editors were looking for and a Q&A with Angela James. I liked what I saw, so I decided to submit.

Fast-forward to April 1. (Yes, really, April Fool’s Day!) I didn’t get The Call, I got The Email, because Angela James was home with a coughing, sick child and was doing all her business by email that day. And it was just as well, because I had laryngitis and was letting all my calls go to voicemail anyway!

Hey, we’ll be glad to take credit for your success!
What has your experience been like with Carina Press?

So far it’s been nothing but wonderful! I feel like I’m part of a team with the staff, I enjoyed working with my editor, Melissa Johnson, and I felt like my input on the cover was truly listened to–which, from what my print-published friends tell me, is by no means the industry norm.

I’m also impressed by Carina’s marketing push, particularly how they partner with their authors to get the word out about our books on Facebook, Twitter, and the blogosphere.

Also, I was amazed by how quick the turnaround from sale to release date was for me. The Sergeant’s Lady released less than five months after Carina acquired it, which meant, among other things, that editing was a whirlwind and I had to scramble to build a web presence under my pen name. I don’t think it’s going to be quite as quick going forward, though, because their submission volume has increased. They’ve just acquired my second manuscript, with an exact release date TBD but probably Spring 2011, which feels positively leisurely by comparison!

We’re all about risky here. What is risky about The Sergeant’s Lady?

The setting and the hero. About 3/4 of the action takes place with Wellington’s army in Spain during the Peninsular War, a long way from the normal Regency world of London ballrooms and the pastoral English countryside. And Will is a sergeant who’s exactly what he appears to be–he doesn’t turn out to be the long-lost son of a duke or anything of that sort, so he and Anna have to find a way to face and move beyond their difference in station.

I’m loving Will and the Penisular War setting! Did you come across any interesting research when writing The Sergeant’s Lady?

Too many details of army life to possibly count, though I’d recommend anyone wanting to write Peninsular War find a copy of Antony Brett-James’s Life in Wellington’s Army.

One thing that surprised me was that the army didn’t issue tents for the soldiers till 1813 or so. The Sergeant’s Lady is set in 1811-12, so Will and his fellow soldiers sleep in the open, make do with whatever kind of shelter they can rig for themselves, or occasionally get billeted under whatever roof the army could commandeer from the local population.

What is next for you?

As mentioned above, Carina will publish my other Regency historical, currently titled A Marriage of Inconvenience, sometime in 2011. It’s a prequel to The Sergeant’s Lady with Anna’s brother as the hero.

I hope you are excited as I am about Susanna’s The Sergeant’s Lady. I already have it on my Kindle and I’m well into it. Do you like Napoleonic War stories? Do you have any questions about the Napoleonic War, because Susanna can probably answer them. Did you read Barbara Vey’s blog about Susanna’s website? Comment for a chance to win a voucher for The Sergeant’s Lady.

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