A Secret Passion
Forced to wed against her will, Catherine of Somerset must be strong as she exchanges vows with the man she is sworn to destroy. It is not fear that causes the proud lady to tremble as she stands before her soon-to-be spouse, Baron Grayson de Camville, but her unforeseen desire for this powerful, yet gentle, knight - a fevered wanting that she cannot deny.
Punishment awaits Catherine should she fail, yet how can she betray this handsome stranger - her husband, honorable and true - who, with soft words and soul-shattering kisses has taken her heart willing prisoner? There is no escaping the rapture of Gray's caress. The passionate hero she intended to deceive is the man she is destined to adore - and no enemy's dark scheme will rob her of that ecstasy. For only by surrendering to love will Catherine and Gray truly be free.
- Finalist Best First Book: Romance Writers of America RITA Awards
- Finalist Best First Book: Reviewers International Organization Dorothy Parker Award
This book was actually born of desperation. I had been writing for five years (with a few lulls due to the demands of my teaching career, coupled with being a new mother), had completed two full manuscripts (the first one set in 18th century Russia – deemed an “unmarketable setting”, and the second set in the more marketable locale of 16th century Scotland, but deemed lacking in other areas…see my “Story Behind The Story for THE SWEETEST SIN) – and had gathered a full 26 rejection letters from editors and agents. Fortunately for me, when I received writing rejections back then, I tended to feel a short-lived burst of self-pity that was followed by something far more useful – an emotion ranging from mild irritation to fortifying anger.
In this case, the tenth rejection of my Scottish manuscript had me fuming along the lines of these mental phrases: Not enough conflict, you say? All right, I’ll give you a conflict that will knock your socks off. Of course, then I had to come up with said conflict – and find a realistic way for my characters to find their happy ending in spite of it.
I managed to do it when I allowed myself to consider what circumstance would be the worst possible that I could envision for the heroine I’d already begun to create in my mind – a heroine who, in the plot I was in the process of constructing, also happened to be the mother to two young children: she would have to choose between committing a horrible crime (the murder of an innocent man) or seeing her own children killed for her refusal. Such a conflict would be clear and powerful, I thought, and even better, heart-wrenching. And so Catherine of Somerset was born…a gentle and pious 13th century woman who had suffered physical and emotional abuse for most of her life, now caught in a snare from which there seemed no tenable escape.
Of course the innocent man became the book’s hero, Grayson de Camville – a noble warrior with whom Catherine cannot help but fall in love. Her charge to prepare the way for his demise still remains, however, further complicated by her burgeoning feelings for him of love and trust – and here came the second sticking point. How to resolve the seemingly unsolvable romantic corner into which I’d painted my unsuspecting characters?
In another fit of desperation, when the story refused to jell in my mind and the resolution to the conflict I had so eagerly grasped only a few months earlier neglected to manifest itself, I sat down and wrote out Catherine’s feelings in the first person, like a long letter, speaking as if I was Catherine. That 12 page exercise ended up becoming the prologue to SECRET VOWS – and it was what, I later learned, won me the attention of the agent who signed me on (Ruth Kagle of the Jane Rotrosen Agency) and eventually was one of the deciding factors in my editor’s decision to make the offer for a two book contract.
SECRET VOWS was my manuscript’s working title, and the editorial team at Avon decided that they liked it enough to keep it.
And as to how Catherine and Gray actually find their happy-ever-after, past the quagmire of that overwhelming conflict? Well, you’ll have to read SECRET VOWS to find out!