Please welcome romance author Grace Callaway!
What inspired the writing of Abigail Jones?
I had just finished writing Her Husband’s Harlot, the first in my erotic Regency series, and I was looking for a new creative challenge. While I am a historical reader at heart, I do love paranormals, and I thought, Why not combine the two? The two genres have a lot in common, I think, in terms of the world building and levels of eroticism (I like to read and write hot!); in fact, when you examine the "horrid" or "sensation" novels of the 1800's, with the emphasis on the gothic supernatural, the connection between the two becomes quite obvious.
So I drew upon one of my favorite gothic stories of all time, Jane Eyre, and created Abigail Jones, a sheltered young woman who is cursed with terrifying erotic visions. When her aunt dies, Abby goes to work at Hope End, a gothic castle, and catches the eye of its mysterious master, Lord Huxton … who just happens to lead a secret life as a demon slayer. As the passion between them blazes, Abby comes to a startling realization: her visions and his quest for vengeance are intricately linked, and they will have to battle the ultimate evil together if their world—and their love—are to survive.
Did you do research for this book?
Several separate veins of research, actually. First, I did my general period research on the Victorian era and, in particular, the gothic sensibility. Second, I read up on the Victorian painter and poet Gabriel Rossetti, for whom I created a fictional role in the story. In fact, one of the mysteries in Abigail Jones centers on a portrait that is based on an actual Rossetti painting. Third, I drew upon different demon mythologies to help me imagine the main antagonist of the story.
Currently I’m at work on the second book in my erotic Regency series, Her Wanton Wager. It's a fun and sexy story about a feisty young miss who takes a notorious rake up on a wager of seduction. In a nutshell, if the hero succeeds in seducing her, she will have to give up her brother (who owes the hero money). If the hero fails, then the heroine's brother goes free. Of course, neither of them count on falling in love ...
After that, I plan to return to the next installation in Abigail and Hux’s adventures. I’ve already written a few chapters, and I’m really excited about how this sequel will unfold. The story will incorporate new gothic/paranormal elements, including a creepy asylum for the insane, an amulet with magical powers, and more revelations about Abigail’s unnatural origins. Stay tuned!
An excerpt from Abigail Jones:
(As her first task, newly hired maid Abigail Jones is sent to deliver refreshments to her employer, Lord Huxton, and his female guest.)
"At last," I heard a sultry female voice say. "I thought I would expire from thirst."
Taking that as a bid for entry, I managed to release the handle with my elbow, and the door swung slowly open. The blaze of blue candles assaulted my eyes so for a moment I just stood there, dumb and blinded.
"Well, don't just stand there like a twit," the woman's voice drawled.
I blinked as the dark spots faded. My mouth opened in shock; quickly I lowered my eyes, my heart spurring to a furious pace.
"Wh-where shall I put the tray, ma'am?" I asked.
"That's my lady," she said. "And look at me when you speak, girl."
"Yes, m-my lady." Swallowing, I lifted my lashes to the blonde goddess reclined upon the chaise-lounge. She was entirely naked and luridly posed against crimson velvet. Her voluptuous breasts, white and tipped with dark red nipples, swung with indolent depravity as she eased to a sitting position. Mrs. Beecher's advice sprang into my head, and I averted my eyes quickly. But not before I saw the most startling thing: beneath the alabaster expanse of her stomach, her womanly place was like that of a young girl's. Completely ... bare.
"Like what you see?"
I was certain I had heard wrong; my shocked gaze flew up to hers. Her full mouth, polished red, uncoiled snake-like over her face. The glasses rattled; I hugged the tray into my midsection to still its shaking. It was a trick of the light, I told myself. An odd flicker that had made her eyes seem to glow with an other-worldly light.
I blinked again. Her eyes, green but now otherwise unremarkable, narrowed to a calculating slant.
"Bring the tray over here, girl."
I saw no choice but to do as I was told. I held the tray out in front, keeping as much distance as possible between myself and her. Instead of taking a glass, she pulled a grape from its stem. I felt the pop of the fruit falling into her palm, and the faint vibration lifted the hairs on my skin. Smiling, she bit into the sphere, releasing droplets of juice. As her tongue traced the rim of her lips, my throat clenched.
Her nostrils twitched, as if catching the scent of my alarm, and her smile widened further. "Hand me my dressing gown. The one on the bed."
Grateful for an escape, I deposited the tray on the nearest table and headed to the bed. The decadent four-poster affair occupied an entire corner of the room. I felt my face heat as my gaze travelled from the gilded mirror on the ceiling to the disordered bedclothes below. What my betters did was none of my business, I reminded myself between uneven breaths. Spotting the filmy red clump, I fished it out from amidst the rumpled navy satin.
Without warning, the vision bore upon me. The room contracted into disorienting color, then expanded into wavy dimensions. I felt myself falling, the world spinning ... and then I was flung back. Like a bird dashed against glass, my thoughts flapped in wild confusion. I grappled to find my bearings. I could see the room clearly, yet the view seemed distorted. Off-kilter somehow, the perspective not quite usual. Then the grisly realization gripped me.
I was looking through eyes not mine.
Too late, terror spiked. Like quicksand, the hallucination sucked me in. I bucked at its hold, at the fierce, familiar panic overtaking me. But the harder I fought, the greater the trance's power until I saw myself as Lady Priscilla, blonde and naked in the mirror above the bed. I was purring, writhing against the dark satin. Lust clawed through me as I feasted on my own voluptuous beauty. I wanted to touch myself. But my limbs would not move.
I was tied.
With a hiss, I strained against the silken ropes binding my hands and feet to the posters. But as I lay spread-eagled upon the smooth sheets, 'twas no longer fear I felt, but ... anticipation. I felt the mattress dip beneath a new weight, and a primal quiver coursed over my splayed thighs. I looked up into the mirror, my teeth baring at the sight of a large, tanned hand juxtaposed against my delicate paleness. As the long fingers maneuvered up my leg, I caught the gleam of a signet ring engraved with an archaic "H".
With a touch, he mastered me. He blazed a relentless trail over my calf, my knee, and higher yet ... my hips arched as he scaled the eager precipice, circling to the apex. My lips shaped to pleas, to carnal demands until, with a commanding stroke, he possessed the burning core of me. I mewled with abandon as his fingers swirled the blonde curls, darkening them with something foamy and slick ... soap. Shaving soap. The scent of sandalwood filled my nostrils.
The pungency of the smell jolted me, gave me an instant's purchase into reality. Gasping, I released the garment and fought to close my mind. I focused on the black tops of my serviceable boots and tried to stem the onslaught of sensation. The flood of images, sounds, smells. My heart contracted in fearful pulses; my blood roared in my ears. With my chest bound in panic, I tried to anchor myself in reality. To stave off the tide of madness crashing over my senses. To stay afloat as the carnal undertow dragged at my soul.
Concentrate, Abigail. Use your mind. Do not give into darkness.
I saw the precise flexing of my aunt's lips as she read to me. Grasping onto the first poem to surface, I clung to that stanza like one drowning. Tyger, tyger burning bright ... My blood was burning, raging ... In the forests of the night ... I would not follow the dark path, I would keep going, keep going toward the light ... What immortal hand or eye ... could frame thy fearful symmetry?
I repeated the words to myself over and over until slowly, slowly I felt the darkness ebbing. My rational mind returned; my skin became my own. The smooth ropes wisped into nothingness, and I was free. As I swayed upon my feet, I suddenly sensed a new presence. Palpitations bobbed my breast. I'd been so absorbed in the battle for self-control that I had not registered the door opening.
"Lucien, dearest, you are back at last," Lady Priscilla said, her voice trickling with honeyed sweetness. "The champagne has arrived. Brought to us by a little country mouse."
I remained head-down, paralyzed, wishing I could disappear.
"There's no need to denigrate the staff, Priss." The deep, low-pitched voice slid over my frazzled senses. "You're embarrassing the girl."
"Well, I'm thirsty." I could hear the pout in her voice. "I know standards in the country are different from Town's, but really, Lucien, you must take a firmer hand with the help. I might have picked the grapes and made the stuff myself in the time it took her to bring it here."
Belatedly, I remembered Mrs. Beecher's instructions. Deliver it to them. In and out. With my head still down, I stumbled over to the table and took hold of the tray's handles. Footsteps approached. Into my downcast view entered masculine feet, bare and large, coming toe to toe with my boots. Slowly, I lifted my lashes. My gaze collided with that of Lord Lucien Langsford, Earl Huxton. An electric sensation shot through my belly. Breath hitching, I dropped my eyes quickly.
I had seen my employer from afar on several occasions and was well aware of his physical perfection. Up close, however, the power of his charm slammed into me with visceral force. I felt his presence; it called to some dormant and alarming part of me. Of their own accord, my eyes returned to his lean, long frame, the subtle, potent play of muscle beneath his dressing gown. I was drawn higher, to the dark dusting of hair above his collar and up the strong, sure line of his throat.
Mesmerized, I looked into his face. The earl was said to be in his thirties, a man in his prime. But his virile charisma struck me as timeless. It went beyond mere good looks—though he had those aplenty as well. His hair was wavy and thick and black as night save for the bold streaks of silver. As if chiseled by a master hand, his features radiated male grace from the straight nose and strong jaw to the clean slash of his cheekbones. But it was his eyes that most arrested. Vivid blue, framed by decadent dark lashes and heavy lids, they transformed his human beauty into something altogether more powerful.
These were not the eyes of a mortal, but a brooding archangel.
As if he sensed my thoughts, one corner of his mouth lifted. The impact of that lazy, sensual movement shivered through me, and my throat went dry.
Oh, he was an angel for certain—the fallen kind.
I became aware of the heated throb of my blood, a strange and painful ache that seemed to infuse my every breath. Mayhap it was the recent hallucination and the lascivious aftermath still humming through me. Or mayhap the foreign experience of being in close proximity to a member of the opposite sex. But I found I could not look away. I could not summon the strength to free myself from the spell weaving around my senses.
I inhaled sharply as his hands slid over mine. Sparks danced over my trembling nerves. Upon his ring finger, the gothic initial glinted.
"Soft," he said.
"S-sir?" My breath came fitfully into my chest.
"Your hands. You haven't been here long, have you?"
I shook my head, transfixed by the demon blue of his eyes, the rough graze of his fingers over my bare skin. Handling the reins, came the nonsensical thought. That could be the only reason for this robust, calloused grip from a gentleman of leisure. My heart thumped faster as his hold tightened. Regaining my wits, I tried to tug away. He did not release me, but used his stronger fingers to pry into my grasp.
Then I realized his intent: he was merely taking the tray from me. Shaken, I let go. My arms fell to my sides, leaden weight, and, indeed, I felt as if I was drowning.
"What is your name?" he asked softly.
"Abigail," I whispered, keeping my eyes trained on the black velvet lapel of his dressing gown.
"An apt name," he said, and I could hear the dry humor in his voice, "for a maid."
"Or a servant of God," I replied, before I could think twice.
I made the mistake of looking up. Something flashed in his eyes—hell fire came the hysterical thought—and then his mouth twitched. "And so you are."
"Lucien. I am waiting for my champagne. Either dismiss the maid," Lady Priscilla twirled a blonde ringlet with her finger, "or have her join us."
Her demand pierced my reverie. Good heavens, surely she could not be implying that she ... we ... Shocked, I broke away from his lordship's gaze. A single impulse gripped me: I had to escape. I had to run or else—
"May I go, my lord?" I whispered urgently.
"For now, Abigail-of-God."
I did not wait another moment. I fled from the room. His voice seemed to follow me as I escaped into the servants' corridor. Shaking, I stumbled along in the darkness, his words reverberating with each step.
I love to hear from readers! Check out my web-site : www.gracecallaway.com (where you can learn more about my projects and sign up for my newsletter) and/or join me on facebook: www.facebook.com/gracecallawayauthor
Grace is giving away 2 Ecopies of Abigail Jones, so please leave your email with your comment below.