When I heard that both The Actor and the Earl and Duty to the Crown had been announced as finalists for the Historical Romance category for the 2013 Rainbow Awards you could’ve knocked me down with a feather. I was already shocked that Duty to the Crown had received an honorable mention, so this was a lovely and quite unexpected surprise.
These two books, and the third and final in the series (not yet published), are straight from my Tudor-era obsessed, Shakespeare-fueled fevered imagination. The general premise for the series is my leading man, Sebastian Hewel, takes a new role playing his twin sister, the wife of Lord Anthony Crofton. So straight away you can see my Shakespeare kink: Comedy of Errors and Twelfth Night are fit to burst with twins swopping places, and several other plays contain characters cross-dressing. So add in a series of misunderstandings, meddling monarchs and well-meaning friends, and my stories developed into fun romps.
I never dreamed these novels would be so warmly received, but I’m very grateful to my readers who have read and enjoyed them. The Rainbow Awards are a great showcase, especially for new writers like me, and I can’t thank the organizers and judges enough.
Blurb: The Actor and the Earl
Elizabethan actor Sebastian Hewel takes his bow at the proscenium only to embark on the role of a lifetime. When his twin sister, Bronwyn, reneges on the arrangement to marry Earl Anthony Crofton, Sebastian reluctantly takes her place. At nineteen, Sebastian knows his days as a leading lady are numbered, but with this last performance, he hopes to restore his family’s name and pay off his late father’s debts. Never mind the danger of losing his head should he be discovered.
He didn’t expect Anthony to be so charming and alluring—not to mention shrewd. While he applauds Sebastian’s plan, Anthony offers a mutually beneficial arrangement instead. Sebastian will need every drop of talent he has to survive with both his head and his heart intact, because this is the best part he’s ever had.
Extract from The Actor in the Earl:
Sebastian watched as Anthony examined him closely, his eyes taking in his appearance from head to toe. “What now? You know what we planned to do.”
“I think the plan has merits,” Anthony replied with a sly grin. “And I think that we can come to an arrangement that will prevent me from having to sully the once-great Hewel name.”
Sebastian didn’t like the sound of that, the words too close to blackmail for his comfort. “Meaning what, exactly?”
“If you are willing to keep up this charade, continue to play Bronwyn, then I in turn would take up the mantle of devoted husband.”
“Your greatest performance, Sebastian. Fool the court and polite society in an extravagant wedding, then retire to my country house to be my beloved wife for perhaps a year or two, after which time my young, but sickly, wife will succumb to a fever, and you will return to your life as Sebastian Hewel.”
For a moment Sebastian was unable to reply, Anthony’s shocking proposal robbing him of words. “But why would you want this?”
Anthony’s smile was predatory. “I have my reasons.”
“No buts, Sebastian. Do you have your answer? A life of luxury and your honor, or your family’s disgrace?”
Sebastian’s heart raced in his chest, but as he stared into Anthony’s expectant face, he really had little choice. “I accept.”
Blurb: Duty to the Crown
Despite the uncomfortable clothing and the gossip at court, Sebastian Hewel is still enjoying the role of Lady Bronwyn, wife of Earl Anthony Crofton. But when Queen Elizabeth asks a favor of Anthony, Sebastian’s world fractures and his heart threatens to break. The Queen wants Anthony to seduce Marie Valois, the beautiful daughter of a French noble, to discover the whereabouts of her father, who is wanted by the King of France.
Sebastian knows Anthony can’t refuse the Queen, especially since he has something of a reputation at court. But the situation is further complicated when Marie meets Sebastian without his disguise—and starts flirting with him. Her brother, Nicholas, arrives at Crofton Hall, not happy that his sister has been linked to a man like Anthony, only to find his own head turned by Lady Bronwyn and her acerbic wit. Contending with the attentions of both siblings—and a very jealous Anthony—would be bad enough. But then Sebastian’s uncle demands Sebastian and Anthony stage Bronwyn’s death to avoid discovery….
Extract from Duty to the Crown:
“What? One minute you request I do my duty to the Queen and try to lead Nicholas into thinking I’m interested, the next you act the jealous husband and demand I should ignore him. Make up your mind, Anthony. What is it to be?”
Anthony sighed and sat down heavily on the bed. “I know I am being irrational, Sebastian. But it doesn’t make it any easier.”
Sebastian knelt down in front of him and took his hand. “You know it’s just an act. It is no different from what I endured when you were attempting to woo Marie.”
“Valois is an attractive man. A man capable of turning many heads.”
“And I am not interested,” said Sebastian earnestly. “And you must remember it is Bronwyn, not Sebastian, who Nicholas is pursuing. As far as I know, there are no whispers that he welcomes men into his bed.”
“I know. But—”
“No buts, Anthony. If he gets under my skirts, we’ve more to worry about than you feeling jealous.”
“If I catch him with his hands under your skirts, I will chop them off!” growled Anthony.
Rebecca Cohen is a Brit abroad. Having swapped the Thames for the Rhine, she has left London behind and now lives with her husband and baby son in Basel, Switzerland. She can often be found with a pen in one hand and a cup of Darjeeling in the other.