Sunday, March 27, 2011

Guest Post: Marsha Canham author of Swept Away

Today Marsha Canham is taking over A Chick Who Reads to tell us about her latest book, Swept Away!

SWEPT AWAY begins with a half-naked body of a man washed up on a lonely beach. When Annaleah Fairchilde finds him, she thinks he must be dead, for he is badly beaten and unconscious. A nudge to check for life and he opens his eyes briefly, focusing on her long enough to whisper: "They have to be told the truth before it is too late."

Anna has been banished to her dotty old aunt's house as punishment for refusing to marry the man her parents have chosen for her. Instead of the boredom she is expecting to endure, she is thrown into a mystery involving a man who is wanted for treason, being hunted by English soldiers, and stalked by a French assassin. Adding to the challenge, Emory Althorpe also wakens with temporary amnesia and has no idea who he is or why all of England believes he was the one responsible for helping Napoleon Bonaparte escape the island of Elba.

Swept AwayA brief excerpt:

By the end of the second day, her travels up and down the stairs had become so tiresome, Annaleah offered to relieve Harold Broom while he caught up on some of his household chores. It was midway through the third day, while he was away refilling all the large water kettles in the kitchen and fetching his noon meal, that she looked over at the bed and found Emory Althorpe looking calmly back at her.

She was sitting on the window seat, her legs curled beneath her, idly tracing a pattern in the grime on the glass pane. The shutters were opened wide and where the sunlight poured around her shoulders in a thick haze, it turned the flown wisps of her dark hair into a fiery coppery halo. Her gown was white muslin and the combined effect of the bright sunlight and the streamer of sparkling dust motes caused her to body and skin to glow with an almost unearthly, blurred luminance.
Annaleah was blithely unaware of this. She was only conscious, suddenly, of eyes as deep and dark as the blackest of sins staring at her.
For a very, very long moment, that was all they did: stare at one another.
Anna could actually feel the blood draining out of her face, and the strength melting out of her shoulders, her arms, her legs. She turned instantly cold, was completely paralysed to the point where she forgot she had to breathe.

“Am I dead, then?” he asked in a rough whisper. “Is this the end of it?”

Anna’s lungs emptied on a gust and she tore her gaze away from the bed long enough to glance at the door. Broom had been gone over an hour and should have been back by now but he was not, and she was entirely alone with a dangerous criminal, three long flights of stairs away from a smattering of old servants who were too deaf to hear her scream and too old to wobble to her rescue anyway.

“No.” Her voice sounded equally cracked and ragged and she had to swallow to make her throat work properly. “No, you are not dead, sir.”

The long black lashes closed and opened slowly again. He blinked a second time, then a third as if he still did not believe the soft, glowing vision before him was real. In the next instant, when he tried to turn his head to identify the rest of his surroundings, any lingering doubts were removed as his lips parted around a grunt of pain so pure and involuntary it brought Anna jumping to her feet.

“You should not try to move, sir. Not until you are fully apprised of your injuries.”

“Injuries?” His left hand moved with the ease of a hundred pound weight, inching up off the bed to grope clumsily at the lump on back of his neck. The swelling had gone down considerably over the past two days, but it was obvious by the look on his face that the pain was excruciating.

“Wh-what happened?”

“You were found half-drowned on the beach. My great-aunt, Dame Florence Widdicombe, had you carried up here to the house, where you have lain for the past two...nearly three days without moving. We were beginning to wonder if you were ever going to waken. Your brother has stopped by at least twice each day and is quite beside himself with worry.”

“My brother?”

“The vicar. Reverend Althorpe. S-Stanley,” she stammered finally, not knowing exactly how much familiarity was permitted under the circumstances.

He frowned again. “How long did you say--?”

“We found you early Monday morning, and today is Wednesday, not quite noon. Of course, we have no idea how long you lay on the beach, or floated in the water, or...” she started to ramble desperately as the bottomless black eyes searched her face again “...or if you fell off a ship in the Channel, or if you took a tumble off the docks, or the cliffs...”

Her voice trailed off as, thankfully, he looked away. This time he seemed to brace himself for the pain, meeting it with a clenched jaw. He scanned the bare walls, the high peaked roof, the lamp that hung from a long chain off a wooden beam. His inspection halted briefly at the open door then went on to locate the rail-backed chair, the washstand and painted china pitcher, the cluster of towels hanging on a wall peg. There was more, including a bottle of tincture and one of laudanum that drew forth another frown, but his gaze skimmed them quickly before flickering back to Annaleah.

“When you said I was brought here, may I ask...where, exactly, is ‘here’?”

“Widdicombe House.” It was Anna’s turn to frown. “My aunt tells me she knows you very well; you used to visit here a great deal when you were younger. She has been almost as anxious as the vicar to speak with you. In fact--” She took a nervous step toward the door. “She wanted to be told the minute you came to your senses.”
The genuine note of panic in his voice stopped her.

“Please, Miss...Widdicombe?”
“Fairchilde,” she corrected him in a whisper. “Annaleah Fairchilde.”

“Please, Miss Fairchilde--”

“My father is the Earl of Witham, my mother is a Compton, by way of the Somerset Comptons, and niece to Lady Widdicombe.” It was an awkward and pretentious introduction at best, but for some reason she felt compelled to establish her position and stature quite clearly. At the very least, she had no intentions of being mistaken for a poor relation relegated to the position of companion to an old woman. At best, she would not be ordered about by a treasonous rogue, regardless if his head was broken or not.
“Miss Fairchilde,” he said, licking dry lips, “if you would be so kind as to bear with my ignorance a moment longer? Since you appear to be well enough informed, I would be grateful if you could tell me who the blazes I am.”

Author Info:
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And my blog, Caesars Through the Fence

Swept Away can be found at:

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