Top 5 List & Contest: Christy Carlyle

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christycarlyle_authorpicFueled by Pacific Northwest coffee and inspired by multiple viewings of every British costume drama she can get her hands on, Christy Carlyle writes sensual historical romance set in the Victorian era. She loves heroes who struggle against all odds and heroines who are ahead of their time. A former teacher with a degree in history, she finds there’s nothing better than being able to combine her love of the past with a die-hard belief in happy endings.

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Top 5 Writing Influences

Jane Austen – I don’t claim to have her insight or talent, but I do know that Pride and Prejudice is the first book I ever read that gave me palpitations. I burned through the pages after Darcy’s first disastrous proposal because I had to know if Lizzie would ever forgive him, and if he would work to earn her love. Those impulses are still what drive me to read romance. Also, Jane Austen taught me the absolute perfection of a happy ending.

Lisa Kleypas – I still re-read Lisa’s Dreaming of You and get as choked up and excited by the story and characters and her marvelous writing as I did the first time. But what I loved most about Lisa’s books is that they were set in the Victorian era. They were different from Regencies, often grittier, and that is a lot of the reason I decided to write Victorian romance.

The Bronte Sisters – Emily, Charlotte, and Anne were all very different writers, and yet all their books had such an influence on me that, to this day, they impact what I think of as exciting and romantic. They taught me about the kind of emotion I strive to capture when I write. Though Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall all have moments of melodrama, what sticks with me from each novel is their emotional honesty. The Brontes remind me to strive, most of all, for emotion when I write romance.

My grandfather – He wasn’t a writer, but he loved books as well as anyone I’ve ever known. He built bookcases along the walls of his basement and filled them with books he bought at auctions around Michigan. He encouraged me to revere books and was always willing to talk history with me, including his own harrowing experiences during World War II. I don’t know if I would have become a bookworm, and therefore a writer, without Grandpa sharing his love of books with me.

Stephen King – No, I don’t write horror novels, but I do enjoy reading them sometimes. But Stephen King is as much an inspiration to me because of who he is as because of his enormous storytelling talent. Growing up, I wasn’t the popular kid. I got made fun of for lots of reasons, including wearing glasses. In the heart of many of King’s stories you’ll find a kid who doesn’t fit in, and I think that was Stephen. I know it was me. So for me, he’s an example of what you can accomplish despite the naysayers.

 

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Excerpt

Seeing him again was worse than Ophelia had imagined. And she had imagined this moment aplenty. Far too many times. Not just on her infrequent jaunts to London but most days since they’d parted. The man had lingered in her thoughts, despite every effort to expel him.

Taking a shaky breath, she braced herself and faced him.

He’d always been tall. When they were children, she’d looked up to him. Literally. But he’d never used his size to bully others. More often he’d born teasing about his physique. Ungainly, his father had called him, and Kit repeated the word when referring to himself.

Now he offered no apologetic hunch in his stance. He didn’t cross his arms to narrow his body. More than embracing his size, he wielded his generous dimensions with a virile grace that made Phee’s mouth water. He stood with his long legs planted wide, shoulders thrown back. His chest was so broad that she itched to touch it.

Stop being a ninny, she chided herself. The most essential observation was that he did not look like a man who’d pined for her. Not a hint of guilt shadowed his gaze.

He thrust his hands behind his back, and the buttons above his waistcoat strained against the fabric on either side, as if the muscles beneath were too sizable to contain. Phee’s gaze riveted to the spot, waiting to see which would win—the pearly buttons or the dove gray fabric. When sense finally wound its way into her boggled mind, she glanced up into gilded brown eyes. He was the winner, judging by the satisfied smirk cresting his mouth.

Kit stood too near, close enough for her to smell his scent. A familiar green, like fresh-cut grass, but mingled now with an aromatic spice. Each breath held his spice scent heightened by the warmth of his body. The heat of him radiated against her chest.

His eyes were too intense, too hungry. He perused her brazenly, studying the hem of her outdated gown before his gaze roved up her legs, paused at her waist, lingered on her bosom, and caught for a moment on her lips. Finally, he met her eyes, and his mouth flicked up in a shameless grin.

She looked anywhere but at his eyes. On his neck, she noted the scar from a childhood adventure in the blackberry briar. Then she got stuck admiring his hair. Apparently his scandalous London lifestyle—if the rumors she’d heard were true—called for allowing his jet black hair to grow long and ripple in careless waves. Strands licked at his neck, curled up near his shoulders.

Time had been truly unfair. The years hadn’t weathered Kit at all. If anything, his features were sharper and more appealing. His Roman nose contrasted with the sensual fullness of his lips and those high Ruthven cheekbones. And his eyes. Gold and amber and chocolate hues chased each other around a pinwheel, all shadowed by enviably thick ebony lashes. One theater reviewer had written of the “power of his penetrating gaze.”

Ophelia only knew he’d once been able to see straight to her heart.

 

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