Excerpt: A Cantata of Love (Regency Romantic Suspense)

Research is one of the reasons I love writing Regency-era romantic suspense. Digging into history is fascinating and these factual events often inspire my plots. A Cantata of Love, book 4 in the Code Breakers series, features spies that use music to transmit secret messages. Here is an excerpt for you to enjoy.

JackiDelecki_ACantataofLove_HR1-200x300About the Book

Napoleonic France is no place for an Englishman, especially Michael Harcourt, the Earl of Kendal, who is on a clandestine assignment for the Crown. Already injured and facing imminent discovery by Napoleon and Fouche’s men, Michael finds his escape made even more perilous when he is charged with the safety of a young boy who must be spirited out of Paris.
Desperate to escape the terrible fate that awaits her if she remains in France, Lady Gabrielle De Valmont must disguise herself as a boy and rely on the cunning of a virtual stranger—an Englishman, no less—to smuggle her out of the country. When the Earl’s injury becomes severely infected, rendering him gravely ill, Gabrielle realizes it is now up to her to save them both.

Excerpt – Prologue & Chapter One

1803
In the seaside town of Berck, France

Gabrielle De Valmont brushed back Lord Kendal’s blond curls and applied the wet cloth to his burning brow. His long, golden waves and eyelashes accentuated his fiery red cheekbones. In their days of hard travel from Paris, the earl’s gunshot wound had festered into a nasty infection.

At this moment, he rested. For days, when the fever spiked, he thrashed about, calling out about sending a code book to a woman named Henrietta.

Desperate to soothe him, Gabrielle discovered that he would calm with the French songs of her childhood.

They couldn’t hide much longer without being discovered by Napoleon’s or Fouché’s henchmen. When the earl’s condition had worsened to the point where he could no longer travel, Gabrielle had brought them, under cover of darkness, to her former mémé’s tiny village of Berck, south of Calais.

For eight long days and nights, she had cared for the feverish earl. Their presence in the tiny town couldn’t be kept secret much longer. They must leave Berck, and France, soon. But how could they flee with the French soldiers on high alert, inspecting every boat crossing the English Channel?

Monsieur Denby, Lord Kendal’s valet, had assured her that he had a plan to divert their attention.

Exhausted and despondent, she beseeched the Blessed Virgin for their safe escape and the earl’s recovery.

She also prayed that the earl would forgive her and Mother Therese for their deception. She had to believe that Lord Kendal would never abandon her to her terrible fate.

***

Michael Harcourt, the Earl of Kendal, woke to a soft voice and the delectable smell of a woman. She smelled like wildflowers. And her voice was soothing and sweet. Last night must have been one hell of a night of dissipation since he remembered nothing. But he had dreamed of his French mother crooning to him.

What was wrong with him? He had been in bed with a French woman, and he’d thought of his mother. His head ached as if horses had trampled over him. He tried to remember her name—Yvette? Or was it Mimi? He cracked open one lid. Big blue eyes the color of cornflowers stared down at him, and a lush, pink lower lip pouted. How could he have forgotten this angel’s name? Yvette. Definitely Yvette. “Yvette? Or maybe Mimi?”

He needed her again to refresh his memory. He raised his arms to pull her against him. He grabbed for her, but his arms felt weak. Thank God the rest of his body wasn’t that tired. She yelped when he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her on top of him. “Yvette, darling. Don’t fight me. I need you.”

Yvette gasped and tightened against him. He rubbed himself against her slender body. Not his usual type, he noted. Clearly not an opera dancer by the slender frame. What had he drunk last night that he couldn’t remember this delectable handful?

“Let go of me,” she hissed.

He whispered against her soft, tender neck, kissing her ear. “Were you this feisty last night?”

“Let me go, you brute.” She shouted in his ear, causing his head to feel as if it were cracking wide open. She jumped back, tripping on the bedclothes and knocking the water canister from the side table. The loud crash reverberated in his head.

Women didn’t fight him. He was a generous lover. Was he overlooking something from last night?

Michael looked at the disheveled, bewitching woman glaring at him. Hair the color of honey sparkled in the morning sunlight, but her bright eyes were now dark and stormy.

Damn, damn. She looked far too innocent and way too marriageable. What had he gotten himself into?

He rearranged the bedding to hide the obvious, then lifted himself to the head of the bed.

The mademoiselle didn’t look so much offended as just plain pissing mad. Her eyes had narrowed, and she glowered at him—the look of a woman who might impale him with the fireplace poker. He had gotten into a lot of scrapes, but this wasn’t how he imagined finding a wife.

The door to his bedroom swung open, knocking against the wall. The pain behind his eyes pounding like a son of a…

Denby, his valet, stormed into the room, swearing under his breath. “What the hell? Are you alright, Mademoiselle Gabrielle?”

She gestured with her hands and spoke in rapid French to Denby. Had she just called him, the Earl of Kendal, a “stupid horse’s ass”?

Denby took the irate woman’s arm. “I’ll clean up the mess. Now that he’s awake, you should prepare yourself to leave. We’ve a long journey ahead of us.”

With no word of farewell, the Mademoiselle Gabrielle huffed and left the room.

Denby chuckled. “Barely awake and already causing problems.” He bent to pick up the water container. “It is good to see you back, my lord. You scared the hell out of me. If it weren’t for Mademoiselle Gabby’s nursing, I’m not sure…”

“I’ve been sick?” He did feel a bit weak after his tussle with the delectable young woman.

“You developed a fever right after we escaped from Paris.”

The memory of fleeing Paris and Fouché’s men brought him totally awake. “My last memory is leaving Paris dressed as a nun.”

Denby handed him a glass that had survived the mademoiselle’s spirited response. “You developed a fever from your gunshot wound, and we had to hide out here. This is where Mademoiselle Gabby’s nanny is from and the people helped us.”

Gabby. He didn’t have any recollection of Gabby when they left Paris. “How long have I been out? And who is Gabby?”

“I’m glad you’re ready to travel. I’ve got a bad feeling if we don’t get out of here soon, all of Fouché’s and Napoleon’s men are going to descend.”

He only remembered Denby, and the boy, Pierre, fleeing for their lives dressed as nuns. He had stolen the code book from Le Chiffre, and everyone in Paris seemed to be after him. He wondered if Henrietta had received the book.

“Any news from England? Do we know if Henrietta received the package?”

“I haven’t been able to make any contact. We’ve been in hiding. I’ve arranged for a boat from Calais. They’ve been waiting for a signal that you’re able to travel. We go tonight with the tide. I want to get us out of France. I can’t breathe here.”

“Did you shake the villain who was posted at my house in Paris too?”

“Yes, but we can’t stay here any longer. I’ll change the bandages and get you some breakfast. You’ll rest up before we make the trip. We have to go by horseback, and I hope it won’t open your wound.”

He suddenly was assailed with the ignominy of the location of his wound. He had been shot in the arse by an unknown assailant while fleeing after he had stolen the code book. The code book, literally, was a pain in his arse.

He sure hoped to hell it gave England a tactical advantage against the power-hungry Napoleon.

For more information or to keep reading, click HERE.

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New Release Giveaway

It’s release day for A Cantata of Love, book 4 in The Code Breakers series. I’m celebrating with a fun giveaway. There are lots of ways to enter. One lucky winner will receive an e-gift card from Gyft.com, where you can shop from more than 200 retailers.

Add heart-pounding adventure, international intrigue, and sizzling romance to your summer reading list with A Cantata of Love.

Napoleonic France is no place for an Englishman, especially Michael Harcourt, the Earl of Kendal, who is on a clandestine assignment for the Crown. Already injured and facing imminent discovery by Napoleon and Fouche’s men, Michael finds his escape made even more perilous when he is charged with the safety of a young boy who must be spirited out of Paris.

Desperate to escape the terrible fate that awaits her if she remains in France, Lady Gabrielle De Valmont must disguise herself as a boy and rely on the cunning of a virtual stranger—an Englishman, no less—to smuggle her out of the country. When the Earl’s injury becomes severely infected, rendering him gravely ill, Gabrielle realizes it is now up to her to save them both.

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Hiding secret messages in music

Do you know how to read music? If so, take a look at this and tell me if you notice anything unusual about it.

375px-B-a-c-h.svgThis is known as the BACH motif, which is an example of musical cryptography, a coded system used to create musical note sequences for names or other messages in musical compositions.

I have been intrigued by the idea of using musical scores and passages to encrypt messages for some time and thought it was a great concept for my Code Breakers Regency romantic suspense series. It provided inspiration for my current project, book 4 in the Code Breakers series, CANTATA OF LOVE.

Part of my fascination with this method of ciphering stems from my love of music. I’ve studied both voice and piano–mainly jazz– and I appreciate the mathematical complexity of music. Coding a message into a song’s musical score or the song lyrics requires a great deal of creativity and presented a tremendous challenge as I plotted the story. While researching period opera singers, such as Mrs. Elizabeth Billington, I discovered that operas were written for singers to show off their voices and allowed for improvisation. That would certainly have made it easy for musicians and performers to send coded messages to specific individuals!

Early examples of musical cryptography include Baroque composers who wove their names or the names of significant individuals into musical selections. The application found popularity with those engaging in espionage, due to the difficulty in breaking musical codes. Other examples of musical coding can be found in the songs of American slaves. Negro spirituals provided a means of communication for those who wanted to escape slavery; references to “going home” or “bound for Canaan” didn’t signify death and heaven but heading north to Canada and freedom.

In 2013, International Science Times featured a story that suggested a musical score written by composer Gottfried Federlein contained annotations that secretly documented the location of buried Nazi treasure.

One online website reports a number of “creepy spy radio transmissions” that feature suspected musical clues and/or codes broadcast over shortwave radios. This practice began around the time of WWI and continues today.

A special thank you to my friend and music composer Greg Bartholomew, who shared his expertise with me on this topic. Here is one of his compositions, Baby Blue Roses. When Daisies Pied is an example of a piece of music ladies would have sung during the Regency period.

Are there any songs you believe contain a hidden message?

JackiDelecki_ACantataofLove_HR[1]A Cantata of Love, Book 4 in The Code Breakers Regency Romantic Suspense series, releases June 28th. You can pre-order on iBooks.

Napoleonic France is no place for an Englishman, especially Michael Harcourt, the Earl of Kendal, who is on a clandestine assignment for the Crown. Already injured and facing imminent discovery by Napoleon and Fouche’s men, Michael finds his escape made even more perilous when he is charged with the safety of a young boy who must be spirited out of Paris.

Desperate to escape the terrible fate that awaits her if she remains in France, Lady Gabrielle De Valmont must disguise herself as a boy and rely on the cunning of a virtual stranger—an Englishman, no less—to smuggle her out of the country. When the Earl’s injury becomes severely infected, rendering him gravely ill, Gabrielle realizes it is now up to her to save them both.

The Sound of Regency Romantic Suspense

OperaAs the end of May approaches, I am also approaching the final pages of my upcoming release, A Cantata of Love. While working on this Regency romantic suspense — book 4 in The Code Breakers series — I’ve been immersing myself in the sounds of early 19th century England.

Music is an important element in A Cantata of Love. I use it to reflect the ambiance of that time period, character development and as a secret code. Modern society offers such a wide range of entertainment and recreational options that we often forget how limited choices once were. Music was one of the primary forms of entertainment in Regency England. Think ballroom dancing, pianoforte recitals in the salon and operatic performances. Young women of the aristocracy were often encouraged to refine their singing talent or learn to play a musical instrument.

In A Cantata of Love, Lord Kendal must thwart the efforts of French spies who are attempting to communicate secretly through music. Could it be the street cleaner whistling a tune while he works? Maybe it’s the opera singer center stage at Drury Lane performing Geminiano Giacomell’s aria Sposa, non mi conosci.

Click here to listen to Sposa, non mi conosci on Youtube.

 

JackiDelecki_ACantataofLove_HR[1]

 

Napoleonic France is no place for an Englishman, especially Michael Harcourt, the Earl of Kendal, who is on a clandestine assignment for the Crown. Already injured and facing imminent discovery by Napoleon and Fouche’s men, Michael finds his escape made even more perilous when he is charged with the safety of a young boy who must be spirited out of Paris. 

Desperate to escape the terrible fate that awaits her if she remains in France, Lady Gabrielle De Valmont must disguise herself as a boy and rely on the cunning of a virtual stranger—an Englishman, no less—to smuggle her out of the country. When the Earl’s injury becomes severely infected, rendering him gravely ill, Gabrielle realizes it is now up to her to save them both.

Look for more heart-pounding adventure, international intrigue, and sizzling romance with the release of Book Four in The Code Breaker Series, A Cantata of Love coming June 14, 2016. Available for pre-order on iBooks.

 

 

A Sneak Peek at A Cantata of Love

JackiDelecki_ACantataofLove_HR[1]Here’s a sample of the heart-pounding adventure, international intrigue and sizzling romance coming June 14, 2016, with the release of A Cantata of Love, book 4 in The Code Breakers series.

1803 ~ In the seaside town of Berck, France

Gabrielle De Valmont brushed back Lord Kendall’s blond curls and applied the wet cloth to his burning brow. His long golden curls and eyelashes accentuated his bright red cheekbones. In their days of hard travel from Paris, the Earl’s gunshot wound had festered into a nasty infection.

At this moment, he rested. For days, when the fever spiked, he thrashed about, calling out about sending a code book to a woman named “Henrietta.”

Desperate to soothe him, Gabrielle discovered that he would calm with the French songs of her childhood.

She was exhausted from the strain of caring for the Earl and from the constant fear that they might be captured and forced to return to Paris.

They couldn’t hide much longer without being discovered by Napoleon’s or Fouche’s henchmen. When the Earl’s condition had worsened to the point he could no longer travel, Gabrielle had brought them to her former nanny’s tiny village of Berck, south of Calais. They made their arrival into the village under cover of darkness to avoid alerting the citizens.

For eight long days and nights, she had cared for the feverish Earl. Their presence in the tiny town couldn’t be kept secret much longer. They must leave Berck and France soon.

But how could they flee with the French soldiers on high alert, inspecting every boat crossing the English Channel?

Monsieur Denby, Lord Kendall’s valet, had assured her that he had a plan to divert their attention.

Exhausted and despondent, she beseeched the Blessed Virgin for their safe escape and the Earl’s recovery.

She also prayed that the Earl would forgive her and Mother Therese for their deception. She had to have believe that Lord Kendall would never abandon her to her terrible fate.

***

Pre-order A Cantata of Love exclusively from iBooks to be the first to read my new release.

A CANTATA OF LOVE

Napoleonic France is no place for an Englishman, especially Michael Harcourt, the Earl of Kendal, who is on a clandestine assignment for the Crown. Already injured and facing imminent discovery by Napoleon and Fouche’s men, Michael finds his escape made even more perilous when he is charged with the safety of a young boy who must be spirited out of Paris.

Desperate to escape the terrible fate that awaits her if she remains in France, Lady Gabrielle De Valmont must disguise herself as a boy and rely on the cunning of a virtual stranger—an Englishman, no less—to smuggle her out of the country. When the Earl’s injury becomes severely infected, rendering him gravely ill, Gabrielle realizes it is now up to her to save them both.

You can enjoy the rest of The Code Breakers series on audio, narrated by Pearl Hewitt. Click the cover to listen to an audio sample. Available at Audible.com, iTunes and Amazon.

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One last gift under the Christmas Tree

Gift-Stashing-2After much anticipation and preparation…the holidays are over. Already? I was just starting to enjoy myself! I don’t know about you, but there’s a bit of let down when the rolls of red-and-green wrapping paper are tucked back into the closet, the last few sugar cookies have gone stale and the Christmas tree–with its multicolored lights and glittery strands of tinsel–no longer brightens the grey of winter.

Have you ever come across one last gift? Something tucked far back under the tree that was overlooked? No matter what’s in the package, the unexpected discovery makes this last present extras special. Well, I have one last gift for my readers!

JackiDelecki_AChristmasCode_HRA Christmas Code, book 2 in my Regency romantic suspense story, is FREE for a limited time at most online retailers. (Amazon doesn’t have a free pricing option so if you read on a Kindle, contact my assistant at mariaconnor@msn.com to request a mobi version).

Download A Christmas Code today and enjoy the holidays just a bit longer!

BN Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Google Play

Audiobook version of A Christmas Code now available

Audiobook fans can now enjoy A CHRISTMAS CODE, Book 2 of the Code Breakers series. Narrated by Pearl Hewitt, this title joins the other two books in the series on audio.

ACC_audiobookEnjoy an audio sample HERE.

Click on the book titles to purchase at Audible today!

 ACotH_audio   ACOL_audio

If you would enjoy receiving a free download of this new audiobook release in exchange for an honest review, please contact my assistant Maria Connor at myauthorconcierge@gmail.com.

Special iBooks Offers

Are you an iBooks user? If yes, today’s blog is just for you!

A CANTATA OF LOVE, Book 4 in the Code Breakers series, is now available for pre-order exclusively on iBooks. Order your copy today to be among the first to start reading the next adventure in this Regency romantic suspense series.

JackiDelecki_ACantataofLove_HR[1]

Napoleonic France is no place for an Englishman, especially Michael Harcourt, the Earl of Kendal, who is on a clandestine assignment for the Crown. Already injured and facing imminent discovery by Napoleon and Fouche’s men, Michael finds his escape made even more perilous when he is charged with the safety of a young boy who must be spirited out of Paris.

Desperate to escape the terrible fate that awaits her if she remains in France, Lady Gabrielle De Valmont must disguise herself as a boy and rely on the cunning of a virtual stranger—an Englishman, no less—to smuggle her out of the country. When the Earl’s injury becomes severely infected, rendering him gravely ill, Gabrielle realizes it is now up to her to save them both.

Look for more heart-pounding adventure, international intrigue, and sizzling romance with the release of Book Four in The Code Breaker Series, A Cantata of Love on December 15, 2015.

Now for the other special offer. If you are an iBooks reader and are willing to post an honest review in exchange for a free digital copy of any of my books, contact my assistant Maria Connor at mariaconnor@msn.com to request one free iBooks download. Click HERE to see my author page on iBooks.

The making of a book trailer

My name is Maria Connor, of My Author Concierge, and I am Jacki’s assistant. Jacki invited me to write a guest blog on our recent experience in creating the book trailer for her new audiobook release, A CODE OF THE HEART.

There are many services available that will create book trailers, but in reality, these video teasers aren’t that difficult to put together and it’s fun to occasionally venture into a different creative sphere. Assembling visual and audio elements requires a different perspective than working with words, but it is no less rewarding.

Join me now for a behind-the-scenes look at creating book trailers.

Developing a book trailer starts with a script. This can be the book cover copy (also called the book blurb or book summary), an excerpt from the book, or something entirely different. For A CODE OF THE HEART, we used a brief excerpt that reflected the storyline, plus the tag line for the Code Breakers series. The script can either be narrated or added as text.

The next step in the process is to assemble the graphic and audio components. This can be a challenge, as you must comply with copyright laws. You must have permission or be authorized to use the content in your trailer. To avoid any problems, I either use images owned by myself or the author, or stock art/music I have purchased. You can also use material under a Creative Commons license.

Finding licensed images for Regency romance can sometimes be a challenge. One of the images we considered using for this book trailer was discarded when we realized the male model–posed in a classic historical romance cover embrace–was wearing a gold chain necklace. We didn’t want any readers complaining about the historical inaccuracy of such an image so we selected a different graphic. Another way to solve the problem of limited Regency England images is to look for photos that reflect the story elements without specifically portraying them. For example, in this book trailer, the “spilled” tea cup represents the poisoning, danger and betrayal incidents in the story, while the British flag was selected to signify the intrigue and danger to the British monarch.

I use Windows Movie Maker to assemble the audio and video elements into a finished product. For the audio “mixing,” I use Audacity, a user-friendly program that is essentially just cutting and pasting portions of sound tracks together.

A Code of the Heart Book Trailer from Jacki Delecki on Vimeo.

For a sample of Jacki’s new audiobook, listen HERE.

I hope you enjoy our creative efforts and that we’ve made you curious to learn more about Jacki’s Regency romantic suspense! If you’d like more information about Jacki’s audiobooks, you can find A CODE OF LOVE and A CODE OF THE HEART on Audible, Amazon and iTunes.

Audiobook survey and a chance to win!

I am in the final stages of production with the talented Pearl Hewitt, who is narrating A CODE OF THE HEART for release as an audiobook.

I’m curious about who listens to audiobooks, as well as when, where and why. For a chance to win my new audiobook, A CODE OF THE HEART, click HERE to complete a quick 5-question survey. I’ll announce the winner on June 30.

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