Tomboys and Country Misses
Although most people think of me as a real “girly girl”, when I was a kid, I was a tom boy. My days were spent riding bikes, climbing trees and roaming the countryside. Spending so much time outside, animals were big part of life. My sister raised sheep, I used to feed the dairy cows that came right up to the fence in the pasture behind our house, and I fondly recall throwing corncobs to the pigs at the neighbor’s farm and even wading in the creek mud with them. In the summer we went to my grandparents’ ranch in Wyoming where we fed the chickens and turkeys and took turns riding the tame old saddle horse. We didn’t spend enough time there for me to learn to ride very well, but I loved the experience.
My rural background has certainly influenced my books, including inspiring my passion for stories set in eras when everyone lived closer to nature and animals. In several of my books, I’ve contrasted the simple, innocent realm of the countryside with the morally ambiguous world of the city. In The Leopard, my convent-raised heroine must navigate the temptations and complexities of medieval London. In my Regency romance, Earl of Scandal, no-nonsense country miss Marissa beguiles jaded London rake Christian and eventually wins his heart.
But no book so strongly evokes my love of animals and the pleasures of country life as my upcoming release Wicked Wager. My heroine Penny is living what she considers an idyllic life, raising horses and supervising the running of the family estate. Then disaster strikes when her guardian and cousin loses the estate in a card game to Marcus Revington. Marcus quickly learns he can’t take possession of the property without marrying the heiress who comes with it. Defying convention, the hardened gamester decides to do exactly that.
Penny’s whole world is threatened. If she weds, she will completely lose her independence and have to give up her life in the country and her beloved horses. The only way to avoid this disaster is to convince Marcus she would be a total embarrassment as a wife, and far too much trouble as well. Thus begins a battle of wills between desperate Penny and stubborn Marcus.
Although there are some serious issues addressed, for the most part Wicked Wager is a playful, sexy book. It was a lot of fun to write. I loved watching my two characters plot and scheme as they attempt to outwit each other, all the while fighting the overwhelming passion growing between them. I also enjoyed how in the end, things don’t turn out like either of them planned.
When hardened gamester Marcus Revington wins Horngate Manor in a card game, he is delighted to finally own property. Even discovering he must marry the heiress of the estate doesn’t deter him. The heiress, Penny Montgomery, is happy with her life raising horses at Horngate and has no desire to wed anyone. When she learns about her guardian’s Wicked Wager, she schemes to convince Marcus she’s unsuitable as a wife so he’ll forget his plan to marry her.
As soon as she saw Revington, she felt a kind of breathless panic. She couldn’t forget how angry he’d been when he’d found her talking to the stablemen at the inn in Petersfield. This time it would be even worse. Not only would he be angry about finding her with a group of stablemen, he’d also be upset with the way she was dressed and the fact she’d gone riding by herself. She could easily imagine what he was going to say: What were you thinking? Going riding in a public place… and dressed like that!
As he approached, she braced herself. She didn’t think he’d strike her, not in front of all these men. But she dreaded a tongue-lashing almost as much. These men were treating her as their equal. They respected her skill and her knowledge of horses. It would be humiliating to have Revington deal with her like a recalcitrant child.
He halted a few paces away. After nodding curtly to the men, he spoke. “I was a bit worried when I found you’d gone riding. But I realize now I shouldn’t have been concerned. You obviously know what you’re about.”
Penny felt her mouth drop open. Was it really possible he was praising her?
“But you should come home and have some breakfast now,” he continued. “I did promise to take you around the city. What would you think of a boat ride down the Thames this afternoon and then the theatre tonight?”
“I… that would be lovely,” she mumbled.
One of the horsemen helped her mount Nero and she simply followed after Revington, still struggling with her sense of disbelief. Was it really possible he’d expressed confidence in her ability with horses? That he’d treated her as his equal, someone whose opinion he cared about?
She could tell his reaction had impressed the horsemen. Like her, they’d expected him to be angry, or at least condescending and curt. When he’d seen fit to be polite and gracious, they could hardly believe it. She very much appreciated his courtesy. She valued the opinion of those men. They might be servants and by the standards of society, beneath her, but she’d rather have their regard than that of most gentlemen and ladies.
Just thinking about what he’d done made her feel strange. She’d longed for some hint of warmth or kindness from Revington. For him to react to her with something other than cold politeness or unbridled passion. At last he was finally doing so, and she found herself unnerved. It was as if the ground beneath her feet had shifted. She didn’t know what to think or feel.
Wicked Wager will be released May 6, 2015 by The Wild Rose Press. It is now available for pre-order at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VU8L64K
Mary Gillgannon writes romance and fantasy, often with Celtic influences. She’s married and has two grown children. She now indulges her nurturing tendencies on four very spoiled cats and a moderately spoiled dog. When not working or writing, she enjoys gardening, travelling and reading, of course!