The Story Behind the Book.
About the Author:
Grace Elliot leads a double life as a veterinarian by day and author of sensuous historical romance by night. An avid romance reader her favorite authors include Stephanie Laurens, Julia Quinn, Mary Balogh and Nicola Cornick. As well as being addicted to books Grace loves cats, history and…guinea pigs….
To find out more about Grace please visit:
‘A Dead Man’s Debt’ by Grace Elliot.
Set in Regency England ‘A Dead Man’s Debt’ is a story of blackmail, duty and an unexpected love.
Celeste Armitage has a plan…and that plan doesn’t include marriage.
After deliberately humiliating a suitor, Celeste’s despairing parents exile her to the country. But once there she discovers a sketch book of daring nude studies and is shaken to find the artist is her hostess’s eldest son, Lord Ranulf Charing. This darkly cynical lord is exactly the sort of dissipated rogue she despises most…if only her blood didn’t heat at the thought of him…
Nothing is as it seems. Lord Ranulf’s life is a façade. Only he can save the Charing’s from disgrace as a blackmailer tries to ruin his late brother’s reputation. But just as Ranulf dares to open his heart to Celeste, the fury of his nemesis is unleashed… facing him with the stark choice between true love and family duty. However when Celeste guesses the truth behind his rejection, Ranulf underestimates her resolve to clear his name and in so doing places the woman he loves in mortal danger….
[Celeste accidently finds Lord Ranulf’s private sketchbook.]
On the next page a lithe figure rose out of darkness, arms raised as if to dance away. Candlelight played in soft shadows of her sinuous back. But more remarkable than the fluidity of her form was the intimacy of her look, glancing over her shoulder toward the artist with eyes brim full of lust.
Celeste forgot to breath, shaken by the undeniable realisation that these pictures were drawn by a man…and one intimately acquainted with women.
“Oh my.” Fascinated, hand trembling, she was unable to turn away.
The next drawing was a naked woman reclining with her back toward the artist. The undulation of her waist, hip and thigh formed a landscape of their own; the rhythmic lines of her body lovingly rendered, observed as if the artist were caressing her form with his skill.
Celeste stays had become uncommonly tight. If her mother wished her to be more broad minded then surely such sketches were educational…besides, the artist’s skill was admirable, to study his technique would help her own poor efforts.
Sucking her top lip, Celeste once again opened the sketchbook. Dipping back in, devouring the images greedily, this world of shapes and shadows, or deft strokes and bold smudges. With each new sketch her heart raced afresh until she became lost in the use of tone and assured line. But as she drank in each new image, the conviction grew and strengthened within her, that this was more than a few lewd pictures, but that she had glimpsed a world of freedom, a celebration of life denied to her as a woman.
Celeste was so engrossed that the unexpected sound of a man clearing his throat was as cold water thrown over her. She froze, then very slowly, praying that she’d imagined the cough, looked up to see leaning nonchalantly against the door a dark haired devil with a wavy mouth, assessing her as if she were his next meal.
Lean and athletic, in tight fitting breeches, a kerysmere waistcoat and faultless cravat, with the assured arrogance of a rake, he seemed an oddly familiar. Her heart skipped a beat. With the ghost of a smile, he crossed the room toward her. Reining in her galloping heart she struggled to recall how it was that this dangerous stranger seemed so familiar.
His masculine presence filled the room, quite robbing Celeste of breath; his arrogant, male magnificence calling to her body in an animal way. He filled her senses so much so that she forgot to breathe; throat constricted and chest tight. In her right mind she might have chastised him for staring, but as it was she was hypnotised, unable to see past the hollowed cheeks and wavy mouth. The rational part of her mind feared lest he guess the havoc his velvet brown eyes was having on her body but with stubborn determination she returned his gaze, refusing to be cowed. A delicious shiver tingled her skin. She knew this man. She just didn’t know how.
Where did the Idea for the Story Come from?
The portrait shows an innocent yet lush young woman, scantily clad with a hint of bosom, brazenly staring out of the canvas with an allure that is quite hypnotic. It struck me as unusual for an 18th century work that the sitter was something other than prim, proper and dressed up to the nines. It must have been sensational at the time, but who would be bold enough to commission such a portrait? (As it happened Emma Hart was ahead of her time and not afraid to flout convention…but that’s another story.)
A delicious idea came to me; what if the woman in the picture wanted to shock? What if years later, it threatened to disgrace her family? What if the son she despises must save their reputation, but at huge personal cost? What if it meant sacrificing his secret love? The stage is set for a story of blackmail, duty and an unexpected love.
How did your Characters Come to Life?
My characters much become real, living people with foibles and traits before I can start writing. Crucial to this is finding the right name. The darkly restless hero of ‘A Dead Man’s Debt’ is Lord Ranulf Charing. The shadowy figure of an unreadable, unreachable man haunted my mind and it was only on a long journey that the name popped unbidden into my head - and I had his name.
Ranulf is complicated. The product of an emotionally austere childhood, taught to believe duty and reputation is everything, to the point of suppressing his own hopes and needs. Only when he meets Celeste is an alternative world of love and fulfillment opened up to him.
Ah, Celeste. I knew her name before I could see what she looked like. I fell in love with the name ‘Celeste.’ Ethereal yet strong, individual and inspirational, the name encompassed the qualities of a woman who dares to be different and not slave to society.
In truth, it is the characters who lead the drama in ‘A Dead Man’s Debt’ on a ride that sometimes surprised even me with its twists and turns.
I hope you enjoy ‘A Dead Man’s Debt’ and will come to love Ranulf and Celeste as dearly as I do.
A Dead Man’s Debt is now widely available on line, at the Kindle bookstore and at: