Title: The Dictator’s Wife
Entry Nickname: Cuddles and Coups
Word count: 82K
Genre: Adult Dark Romantic Suspense
A military dictatorship governs Britain. The First Lord of the Treasury, Julien St John Helmsley, is charming, charismatic, and utterly ruthless, particularly towards the resistance group known as the Treaty. Melanie Bonham, an officer of the Treaty and enemy of the state, has signed up for a deadly last-stand. She’ll become the First Lord’s mistress, learn his secrets, and then assassinate him. Failure will mean torture, death, and vicious retaliation against the rebels, but success could restore democracy.
But “Melanie” has a secret: before she fled to the Treaty, she was Julien’s beloved but brutal wife, Marianne Helmsley, who’s long been assumed dead by all sides. Marianne fears the First Lord will have her shot on sight. Instead, he rejoices at her return. In love with the man she’s meant to kill and tempted by absolute power, Marianne must choose between freeing the country and breaking her heart or ruling at Julien’s side and losing her soul – before both sides seek to have her murdered as a traitor.
I became a triple-agent on the eighth anniversary of the military coup that had replaced Britain’s centuries-old democracy with an absolutist dictatorship.
That morning, I strode into the Treaty’s underground control room, then pushed through the crowd until I reached our leader.
“Good of you to finally join us, Melanie.” Without another word, David set our hacked CCTV feed to show Somerset House from the Strand.
The elegant arches and columns of the Regime’s London headquarters formed a stark contrast to this utilitarian network of abandoned mines. I dutifully studied the soldiers guarding the archway and the helicopters hovering above the courtyard, but the façade’s larger-than-life portraits demanded my attention.
Honour the First Lord demanded the painting on the left, which depicted a striking man in replica nineteenth-century military uniform. Remember the Eternal Blessed First Lady mourned its companion on the right. My co-conspirators considered its subject a she-devil in life and their most high-profile victim in death.
“We need to stop the Regime once and for all,” David intoned. Years of outdoor living had given him muscles and a hearty glow When he spoke, people listened.
I ignored him.
My eyes lingered on the second portrait until I was content the so-called Eternal Bless First Lady’s curves, red lips and Dior gown bore no resemblance to my soldier’s body and weather-beaten face. Besides, Marianne Helmsley’s defining feature had been her Rapunzel curls, and I’d cropped my hair to the skull the night I fled to the Treaty.
~ VERSUS ~
Title: Mounting the Marquis
Entry Nickname: [Insert Shakespeare Joke Here]
Word count: 81K
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Sick of hearing a woman her size can’t be a leading lady, Vi started her own theatre company and proved everyone wrong. But when there’s finally enough money to hire an artistic director, the board chooses Lucian, a local actor whose only qualification is being so good looking that old ladies love to give him money. If the board thinks Vi will be so busy swooning that she hands over control peacefully, they’ve got another think coming. If only Lucian would stop wearing those tight jeans to work.
Lucian’s been the muse of a brilliant but tyrannical director since he was fifteen. Desperate to get away from her, and certain he’s got creative vision, he lands the job of his dreams: artistic director of Vi’s up-and-coming theatre. He’s admired Vi for years. She’s poised and passionate—but when she’s wearing a corset, his rational mind shuts down. Why did he choose two corset plays? He needs his brain in working order to show everyone he’s more than just a leading man.
As Vi and Lucian rehearse Miss Julie, a sexy play about hierarchy, their growing attraction screws with their intentions and challenges their objective: be the one who ends up on top.
Eavesdropping on my rival from behind a hedgerow signaled a new low for me: I was accidentally method acting. Yes, my situation—in both life and snooping—undeniably paralleled the Eighteenth Century farce I would star in later that summer.
“Vi’s a high functioning actress,” Perry, the president of the board, said.
Perry’s diagnosis of my personality boomed through the neighborhood with the resonant clarity of his famous voice. The sound bounced off the front wall of the school where I substitute taught. It poured through the grossly overgrown shrubbery separating Perry from the porch of my apartment where I stood. It echoed in my head, bruising my already wounded confidence.
Everyone in the Berkshire theatre world already knew Perry thought me unqualified to run the theatre I’d founded. Now the whole neighborhood knew, too. Fantastic. I needed to go inside before I lost my temper and proved him right.
“I don’t think you’re giving her enough credit,” Lucian said. Lucian’s voice carried, but it didn’t bellow; it penetrated, beguiled with an enticing smoothness, all Jeremy Irons and Benedict Cumberbatch. It was intellectual, precise, but with a growling sensuality purring under the crisp articulation.
The heat building inside me was no longer simply temper. Lucian may have taken my dream job and acted like a corporate robot most of the time, but certain things about him—namely his voice and his body—sometimes managed to distract me from my righteous indignation.