My gorgeous cover, courtesy of Samhain Publishing and artist Kanaxa.

My gorgeous cover, courtesy of Samhain Publishing and artist Kanaxa.

This afternoon we got to meet Edward. Now let’s peek in on Iris, the heroine of Eros Element. She badly wants to be an archaeologist like her father and shares some talent with him, but she’s still learning to manage it. She’s also not comfortable with the role women are relegated to play in Victorian society and while she was growing up, she struggled with her mother, who wanted her to be more ladylike.

Archaeology has always fascinated me, particularly as it’s connected with and reflects the mythology of ancient cultures. Perhaps if I’d gone to a college that offered archaeology as a major, I would have gone that route rather than psychology. To get more of a sense of Iris’s character and what she would be up against, I read about the history of archaeology and some of the women pioneers of the field. Each of my female leads in the Aether Psychics series has her own special talent, and I gave Iris the ability to touch-sense objects. That is, she can sense what the last person to handle the object was thinking or feeling, and as her talent has grown, she’s been able to go further back in the object’s history. As you can imagine, that talent has been useful as she’s helped her father, but it’s also caused some trouble.

Here we find Iris in her garden, which was her father’s (edited for length).

Grange House, 07 June 1870

Iris stuck the spade into the black soil and relished both the sound as it sliced through the dirt and the feel of it as the grains gave way. Her father’s voice came to memory: If you were on a dig, you’d have to be more careful than that, but pay attention to the dirt. It will tell you if it hides something valuable. She relished the lack of images, sensations, and thought fragments in the plain old garden soil. Sometimes moving through the world gave her a sensation of constantly being called to, the inanimate objects like beggars on street corners who wanted to take her time and mental energy with their stories.

She reached for a baby tomato plant, which her father had started from seed a few months before, and which had been growing in a patch of sunlight in his study.

“Don’t you have servants for that?”

The male voice startled Iris, and she looked up to see Lord Jeremy Scott, one of her father’s students, leaning on the fence between the street and the garden. Oh, lovely. Of all the students they’d had to the house, he was her least favorite. He’d always studied her with the air of a collector looking at a beautiful thing to add to his glass cases, and she recalled her father complaining how the young nobleman had a sharp mind, which he more often turned to how to get others to do mundane, hands-on tasks for him rather than what he was supposed to learn.

“Some of us aren’t afraid to get our hands dirty,” she said. “I find the garden to be relaxing.” She lifted her eyebrows and cocked her head, hoping he would get the hint she wanted to be left alone.

“I was curious whether Professor McTavish is in,” he said. “I’d like to speak to him.”

Iris stood and brushed her hands on the duster she wore over her oldest day dress. Some relief came with being able to look Jeremy in the eye rather than be literally looked down on by him. She sensed he viewed her with an air of superiority, particularly since it was difficult to have a lot of dignity in her current attire, complete with old straw bonnet. At least now she could disappoint him face-on and with relish.

“Doctor McTavish is not available,” she said, and before he could ask when he would be, “He’s still out of the country.”


Iris could almost hear Jeremy’s brain ticking along like the steameograph her father used to copy tests for his students, so she interrupted his scheming with a polite, “Is there a message you’d like me to give him for you, should he return earlier than expected?”

“That I’ve been invited to join a dig in Italy, and I was hoping he could give me the benefit of his expertise before I go.”

No doubt so you can position yourself as the expert and figure out how not to do any real work. But she nodded with as much seriousness as she could muster around her uncharitable thoughts.

“And there was something else, but I suppose I should talk to you about it first since you have achieved your majority since I saw you last.”

“Oh?” Iris’s heart gave a dull thump. Oh, please let him not be thinking of marriage.

“Yes, I shall meet you inside. This isn’t the proper place for such a discussion.” He gestured to the garden. “There’s so much dirt.”

“Well, yes, it’s a garden. And I’m in the middle of summer planting. Perhaps you could return another time?”

He ran his eyes over her attire, his gaze pausing at her dirty hands, and nodded. “If our discussion goes well, you shall not have to soil your hands like this again. Tomorrow for tea, then?”

“I’m afraid I don’t know my schedule. Something has come up,” she said, thinking of the journey she was about to undertake. Under false pretenses, her conscience reminded her.

“Oh. Perhaps I should send word to your father via telegram? I can get my answer quickly and not inconvenience you.”

“Please don’t disturb him. Tomorrow teatime should be fine,” Iris told him. Telegrams! Confounded things.

“Until then.” He tipped his hat and walked off. Iris watched him go, a seed of anxiety sprouting into dread in her stomach.

I hope this isn’t what I think it is. She pictured Jeremy being the first in a long line of suitors. Whereas most young ladies her eminently marriageable age of eighteen would be looking forward to a season in London so they could catch a husband and settle down, she dreaded the idea. One of the few good things about being orphaned and without other relatives—no one would force her to put herself on display, or at least the self deemed most acceptable for the marriage market, which was not her true self.

Iris knelt and put the tomato plant in the hole she’d dug for it. She hoped the feel and damp, earthy smell of the soil plus the sharp odor of the tomato plant itself would keep her in the present. But her mind dragged her back to the past, when she’d discovered she had more in common with her father than their interest in ancient times and high dirt tolerance.

Grange House, 15 April 1864

Iris listened for the combination of splashing sounds and sigh that told her Adelaide McTavish settled in the bath. She hid in the hallway, waited for Sophie to leave the lady’s bedroom, and tiptoed in. Iris’s mother hummed, and through the cracked door Iris saw Adelaide’s head of dark hair above the lip of the tub. She stepped back to ensure she wouldn’t be seen should her mother turn around, and the pain shooting through her abdomen made her stifle a gasp. It had been that way since last night, when her courses started for the first time. She made Sophie, two years older and much more versed in such things, promise not to tell Adelaide, who would want Iris to start doing things in a “womanly”—that is, stifled and not fun way. She wanted a few more weeks before she’d be stuck in long dresses and—worst of all—a corset. It was bad enough she had to walk around today with a tied-up bunch of rags pinned to her bloomers. She felt sure everyone must see her waddling and know her secret, but she was discovering theirs in unexpected and delightful ways, so perhaps it was fair.

From her childhood, her father had told Iris how objects all told stories, and the ancient ones had the best stories of all. She hadn’t understood what he meant until she picked up her fork that morning and saw a flash of the kitchen maid’s joy in the beautiful day and the prospect of her day off once the family was done with breakfast. Then she’d gone into her father’s study and touched one of his pens, feeling pride in the student he’d written the recommendation letter for that morning. Hearing her mother humming in the parlor across from the study made Iris drop the pen and sneak back into the hallway.

Adelaide sometimes spared a smile for her only child, but Mrs. McTavish always had an air of loneliness about her, especially when Irvin was away on expeditions or spent long hours at the university. Of course she hadn’t confided anything in Iris, but always having been a sensitive child, Iris knew her mother wasn’t happy. She tried to be good, but she seemed unable to avoid getting in trouble, which usually meant getting dirty. So when Adelaide’s mood lightened, Iris wanted to know why. Would she at the wise old age of twelve be a big sister? With babies being as messy as they were, she would have something to excel at, and maybe her mother would finally approve of her lack of squeamishness and ability to tolerate soiled things.

Once Adelaide was safely ensconced in her bath, Iris tiptoed into the bedroom and headed for the dressing table, which should hold objects that her mother touched every day and would be exposed to bedroom thoughts. As luck would have it, Adelaide’s wedding ring sat in the center between two tortoiseshell combs. Iris licked her lips, and a thrill of excitement edged the cramping pain from her consciousness. She held the ring between her forefingers and thumbs, a technique that seemed to give her the clearest pictures.

Instead of a fat, dimple-cheeked baby, Iris saw a handsome young man. Then an image of her father and hatred and resentment and worst of all, the itchy, burning sensation of contempt like a poison oak rash in the middle of her chest. The last sounds she heard before she fainted were the clattering of the wedding ring on the floor and its rolling away guided by a groove in the wood.


Eros Element, the first book in the Aether Psychics series, will be available on August 25 from all online retailers in paperback or electronic format. The blurb is:

If love is the ivy, secrets are the poison.

After enduring heartbreak at the hands of a dishonest woman, Edward Bailey lives according to scientific principles of structure and predictability. Just the thought of stepping outside his strict routine raises his anxiety.

Adding to his discomfort is Iris McTavish, who appears at his school’s faculty meeting in place of her world-famous archeologist father. Worse, the two of them are to pose as Grand Tourists while they search for an element that will help harness the power of aether.

Iris jumps at the opportunity to prove her worth as a scholar—and avoid an unwanted marriage proposal—while hiding the truth of her father’s whereabouts. If her secret gets out, the house of McTavish will fall into ruin.

Quite unexpectedly, Edward and Iris discover a growing attraction as their journey takes them to Paris and Rome, where betrayal, blackmail and outright theft threaten to destroy what could be a revolutionary discovery—and break their hearts.

Warning: Allergen alert! This book was produced in a facility that handles copious amounts of wine, tea and baked goods. May contain one or more of the following: a spirited heroine, a quirky hero, clever banter, interesting facts both made-up and historical, and lots of secrets. It is, however, gluten free.

Preorder links:
Barnes & Noble
Google Books
Samhain Publishing
(also available from Apple/iTunes, but I can’t find the direct link)

You can also go here for another excerpt: Random Writings blog

Aether psychicsThank you so much for reading! Please comment on your dream career below for the chance to win an advance electronic copy of Eros Element. Yes, homemaker is a totally valid option. Be sure to include your email and what format you’d like the prize in (.mobi, .epub, or .pdf). I’ll announce the winner tomorrow at the end of the comment thread.

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