Please give a warm welcome to SHERI HUMPHREYS--one of my Golden Heart sisters! She's giving us the lowdown on THE UNSEDUCIBLE EARL, Book 1 of the Nightingales Series. It will release in July--so you get the details before everyone else.
Before we get too far--I want to make sure you know that Sheri is giving away an ebook or print copy of THE UNSEDUCIBLE EARL to a lucky commenter. See below for her question.
MEET SHERI HUMPHREYS
Sheri Humphreys used to be an Emergency Room nurse, but today applies bandages, splints, and slings to the characters of her Victorian romance novels. She loves to ignore yardwork and housework and read—usually a book every one to three days. Having conjured stories in her mind her entire life, she wondered if she were normal. Then she began putting stories to paper and became a two-time Golden Heart® finalist. She lives with a Jack Russell mix rescue, Lucy, in a small town on the central California coast.
A Hero to Hold received a prized Kirkus Star and was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2016.
Let's find out more about THE UNSEDUCIBLE EARL
THE STORY BLURB
The end of the Crimean War brings Victoria Thorne home to face a society that isn’t ready for a lady with the education and experience of a physician. While nursing a Crimean veteran she proves herself able to deal with medical challenges and discrimination, but she’s dismayed when she develops an attraction to her patient’s betrothed brother, the Earl of Cheriton.
Robb Merrick, Earl of Cheriton, is engaged to a darling of society, yet finds himself drawn to his brother’s nurse. She makes him feel connected with the world instead of cocooned by his title and position. He craves the freedom to pledge his love and loyalty, but ending his betrothal means entangling them all in scandal. How can an honorable gentleman be expected to keep his vow when doing so means destroying all hope of happiness?
READ A LITTLE
Victoria barely glanced at the room that served as parlor, kitchen and dining room. A toddler with wide eyes sat on a rug in front of the fireplace, a wooden horse clutched in one chubby hand. An iron stove and a substantial table dominated the left end of the room. A ribbon of steam wafted from a kettle.
She made for the doorway at the parlor end. A woman’s voice cried out from the next room. “Take care of the baby, Arthur,” Victoria said, and hurried through to the bedroom, Cheriton at her heels.
A woman lay abed in her nightshift. Her chest heaved. “Thank you, Lord.” The woman’s dark, glittering eyes pleaded for help. Sweat beaded her face and turned her dark blonde hair brown. Her hands clutched her maturely pregnant belly.
Cheriton stopped in the doorway and turned aside from the room. “Mrs. Brown, this lady is Miss Thorne. She’s staying at the Court, nursing my brother. Please, let her help you.”
Mrs. Brown’s gaze flicked between Victoria and the earl, then locked on Victoria. “It’s too soon, and all wrong. It started so quick and hard, but the babe won’t come.” Her hand reached for the bedsheet and pulled it up, covering herself from the neck down.
Victoria heard both puzzlement and fear in the woman’s voice. Mrs. Brown’s gaze dropped to her belly. She moaned, grabbed up fistfuls of the bedsheets, and arched her back.
She’s scared to death. Victoria looked at Mrs. Brown’s clutching hands and placed one hand on the laboring woman’s hard belly. The lack of resilience there meant the woman was having a contraction. Her low moan gained in volume, climbing to a crescendo. The contraction ended, she gasped, and her body sagged.
Victoria picked up the woman’s hand and gripped it, trying to transfer some of her own resolve to the laboring woman. “I’m going to help you, Mrs. Brown. I’m an experienced nurse, and I’ve had midwife training. I’ve delivered many babies.” Mrs. Brown’s crimped lips trembled and her hand tightened around Victoria’s.
The woman blinked. Two tears leaked from the corners of her eyes and slid into her hair. She bit down on her already ravaged-looking lower lip and nodded. Victoria gave Mrs. Brown’s hand an answering squeeze, then released it and stepped to the foot of the bed.
She tugged the sheet loose from the bottom of the mattress and folded it back, exposing Mrs. Brown’s bare feet. Using as much discretion as she could, she lifted the woman’s hem. Bloody fluid spread under her hips, the buttocks and two small purple legs protruded from the birth canal. The loop of umbilical cord dangling alongside the legs stopped Victoria’s heart. If the baby was to have any chance of surviving, she had to remove the infant from the womb now.
She drew in a sharp breath, shoved her feelings aside, and concentrated on Mrs. Brown. No matter what happened, she needed to be collected and decisive. She let the sheet fall and looked at Cheriton’s broad back. He stood in the doorway, head down, studying the toes of his boots. Waiting. Mrs. Brown moaned with another contraction.
“I need towels, a blanket, string or yarn, and a knife.” She hurried to the pitcher and bowl sitting atop adresser and began a fast scrub of her hands. Even with every minute crucial, her belief in Florence Nightingale’s philosophy of cleanliness held. Cheriton lifted his head and looked at her.
Drying her hands, Victoria crossed to the doorway. “Wash in the scullery. Then get those supplies.” She paused, grabbed his arm and searched his eyes, the flecks of gold and green bright in their pools of treacle brown. He needed to understand. “The baby’s in the breech position and the navel string is hanging out. It’s . . . dire.” He turned to the main room and she returned to Mrs. Brown.
Victoria folded the bedsheet and Mrs. Brown’s shift back to her knees. With her legs bent, the fabric made a tent and obstructed the view of any but someone at her feet.
Cheriton appeared at the door with a stack of towels and stood sideways, face turned away. “Where do you want these?”
“Over here. I’m going to need your help with her.”
“What?” His head jerked around and he stared as if he thought her an escapee of Bedlam.
“I need your help,” she repeated, trying to put all her consequence and feeling of urgency into her voice.
He frowned; shook his head as if rolling the idea from one side of his brain to the other. “That’s outrageous. I can’t help you.”
She hurried to him, grabbed the towels from his arms, and put her face within inches of his. “I can’t do this without you.” He opened his mouth, probably to voice another protest, and she rushed ahead. “Whether your objection is due to the lack of propriety, a squeamish stomach, or something else, there’s no choice and very little time.”
He glanced at Mrs. Brown, who was mumbling a prayer. His mouth firmed and he gave Victoria a short nod, looking decidedly aggrieved. “Let me fetch the rest of the supplies. I’ll be quick.” He disappeared into the main room.
Victoria turned to Mrs. Brown. She hated adding to the woman’s distress, but she had to know what lay ahead.
“Your babe is coming out feet first. I’m sorry. This may be difficult and painful, but we haven’t any time to waste.”
Mrs. Brown’s chin quivered. “Will the baby be all right? I’m so scared,” she said, voice thick with tears. A strangled sob escaped. “I don’t want to die.”
For every woman, childbirth meant facing the looming possibility of death. At this moment, Mrs. Brown’s fear must be overpowering. Victoria wanted to reassure her, hold her hand and comfort her, but she couldn’t take time. The woman’s infant was in extreme jeopardy.
She willed Mrs. Brown to meet her gaze, and when she did, Victoria tried to communicate her determination. “I’m doing everything in my power to get both you and the baby through this. We’re going to do it together.” Victoria kept her voice firm. “Now, I’m going to feel your womb.”
Taking a deep breath, and mentally throwing out a quick “please, God,” she slid two fingers up the birth canal and felt the smooth, firm rim of Mrs. Brown’s womb. The baby’s buttocks were past the womb opening. Why hadn’t the delivery progressed further?
Victoria located the prolapsed umbilical cord and advanced her fingers past the cervix and into the womb, lifting and alleviating pressure from the cord. That reduced compression of the cord, allowing return of circulation to the infant, who was small. Slow and cautious, she stretched her fingers along the babe’s warm, slick curves.
Victoria let out her pent-up breath and took in air. She’d determined the orientation of the child by feel. The arms were extended above the infant’s head, the shoulders the probable reason delivery had stopped. She slid her hand farther, index and middle fingers feeling for the shoulder joint. Finding it, she hooked her finger over the infant’s upper arm and pulled it down. In the tight confines of the uterus it was difficult, even given how flexible the babe’s bones and joints were.
Mrs. Brown shrieked and thrashed her head back and forth. She dug her heels into the bed and pushed away from Victoria’s hands. No. She’d never be successful if Mrs. Brown struggled against her.
“Cheriton,” she called. “I need you.”
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A LIGHTING ROUND OF Q&A WITH SHERI HUMPHREYS
NAN: How often do you get lost in a story?
SHERI: I read a lot, and usually do get lost in the story, at the very least for a portion of the book. I just read TISHA by Robert Specht, for my book club. It’s a biography about a teacher in rural Alaska in the 1920s. The last quarter of the book, a chase in a dog sled, was gripping! I couldn’t put it down.
Nan: That does sound fun.
NAN: What’s your favorite fairy tale?
SHERI: I don’t know that I can choose just one. As a kid, I read and re-read fairy tales. Now I like to give fairy tale books as baby gifts, hopeful that mom or dad will read them aloud. Beauty and the Beast was always a favorite, and it’s a romance trope I enjoy to this day.
Nan: Start those romance readers young!
NAN: What do you do to unwind and relax?
SHERI: I moved from Central California to the Central California Coast four years ago. Recently, I started walking on the beach pretty much every day. I take my dog, and she adores it! I’ve been posting daily pictures on Facebook and am amazed how each visit I notice something new and interesting. I love looking for and finding moonstones and sea glass (the beach I walk on is called Moonstone Beach), and love the way the ocean and sky constantly change.
Nan: Your beach walks sound wonderful.
NAN: What three things are, at this moment, in your heroine’s purse, satchel, reticule, weapons belt or amulet bag (whatever she carries)?
SHERI: : Victoria Thorne in THE UNSEDUCIBLE EARL carries a Victorian nurse’s satchel. Among other things, it contains dressings/bandages made of cotton fabric, needle, suture material (silk and catgut ligatures), lancet, lint (cotton), salt, sodium bicarbonate, oak bark decoction, laudanum, tincture of white willow bark, and honey.
Nan: Honey! Good for burns?
NAN: Who's your celebrity crush and why?
SHERI: I cast all my characters with actors, past or present (appearance only), and have a tiny crush on each of my heroes. I have a Pinterest page for each book, with characters, locations, clothing, pets, etc. Frequently, when I describe a heroine’s dress, I’m describing a real dress I’ve found depicted on some historical website. Here’s a list of my heroes:
David Scott from A HERO TO HOLD: Aaron Eckhart
Robb Merrick, Earl of Cheriton from THE UNSEDUCIBLE EARL: a young Rob Lowe
Jamie Merrick from BY THE LIGHT OF A CHRISTMAS MOON: Kevin McKidd
Cameron MacKay from THE SEDUCTION OF CAMERON MACKAY (coming later this year): Daniel CraigI saved this picture because I loved the dress and hoped to use it in a book. I did. Charlotte Haliday wears it on her last day at the office in A HERO TO HOLD.
It wasn’t the kind of dress she’d normally wear to the Patriotic Fund offices, being as she’d ordered it with Rose Cottage in mind. Beribboned bouquets of red roses danced upon a cream-colored skirt. A robin’s egg–blue jacket, trimmed with matching rose fabric and crocheted lace, topped the flouncy skirt. It was a dress made for laughing and kissing, and she hoped David got a look at her in it. It would serve him right. ~ Excerpt from A HERO TO HOLD
Nan: That's a great list of heroes and I love the excerpt!
NAN'S GOTTA ASK: Is there something special you do (listen to music, go to a special location, etc.) to help you write?
SHERI'S GOTTA ANSWER: I’m pretty analytical, and decided early on that the human brain should be able to write in any environment. Professional athletes are expected to think and perform at their top level while thousands of people watch and yell. I told myself if they could do that, I should be able to write anywhere, anytime, and using a variety of tools. I acknowledged there might be a learning curve and told myself to be patient and keep at it.
I’ve written in my car and on planes and trains, in airports, on boats, a winery tasting room, and a workplace lunchroom. I’ve used a clipboard and lined notebook paper; I’ve dictated into a digital recorder while I drive the freeway. I’ve used an iPad, and paper napkins. Some days it’s slow, others it’s smooth, but I’m always able to produce something useable. The one thing I find really helps is having the last couple paragraphs that precede the section I’m working on.
I know lots of writers find music beneficial. I don’t. I tend to get involved in the music. I have no trouble “tuning out” TV or environment noise, but I find ignoring a tune I like next to impossible. I experienced a pretty big learning curve with the digital recorder, but when I went on a road trip I looked at the journey as an opportunity to become accustomed to dictating. I’m a big believer in people being able to do what they believe they can do, and that was at the center of my decision to write anywhere and anytime.
FIND SHERI :
Blogs: Sheri’s Blog
Previous GLIAS INTERVIEW: Click HERE
Next will be book #2 in the Nightingales series: THE SEDUCTION OF CAMERON MACKAY.
Nurse Elissa Lockwood meets Crimean War surgeon Cameron MacKay in a British military hospital in Turkey. When they surrender to a private moment, Elissa is sent back to England in disgrace. She finds work in London, and is shocked to discover Cam employed at the same hospital. He’s not the confident surgeon she knew. He’s drinking, he’s lost his nerve and spirit, and he’s not performing surgery. Their problems seem insurmountable. They’re ready to admit they don’t belong together when a man with a soul-consuming grudge puts both their lives in jeopardy.
Nan: Sounds great!
SHERI WANTS TO KNOW:
How many sex scenes in a book are too many?
One lucky commenter will win an eCopy or print copy of THE UNSEDUCIBLE EARL once it releases in July. NORTH AMERICA only.