A Preview of Aurelia: Ria meets Chane Bellamy

Aurelia by Andrea ParnellMy next historical romance is Aurelia, the story of Ria Kingsley, an outcast in Savannah society shortly after the American Revolution who seeks to claim her pirate grandfather’s hidden fortune. Her dangerous journey brings passion and danger…much of it in the form of the handsome, hot-tempered sea captain Chane Bellamy with whom Ria makes a desperate bargain to secure his help in her quest.

Here is an excerpt from Aurelia, revealing Ria and Chane’s first meeting…


From trembling lips that indicated hurt feelings, Celeste raised a weak protest when Ria changed direction. “Where are you going, Ria? Not to the docks. You know the place scares me nigh as much as Grandfather Dag.”

“It is necessary, Celeste,” Ria said gently. “I want to take a look at the Aurelia.” Her father’s ship, hers since his death, sat at its moorings on the Savannah River. Hyatt Landis, her father’s solicitor, had taken charge of it. The ship was prey for vandals, and Hyatt, who had newer ships of his own now, had lately been demanding she sell the Aurelia.

Ria sighed wistfully. She’d refused until the choice was close to being made for her. The charges for keeping the Aurelia moored were mounting, besides which, she owed Hyatt for the repairs he had commissioned. She did not expect him to wait much longer for payment of her bill. The scoundrel! How she would like to show Hyatt for the blackguard he was. Convulsively, her hand squeezed around the lump Grandfather Dag’s coins made in her reticule.

Hope rose and fell inside her. A bag of pennies likely. Copper dreams.

“Look! There’s Hyatt,” Celeste announced none too happily. She didn’t care for Hyatt. He reminded her of a bird, an image made apt by the beaklike crook of his nose.

Ria saw him near the Aurelia’s longboat, flanked by two other men. One was tall, lean and black-haired, and by his stance and expression the dominant one of the unknown pair. He also stood in stark contrast to Landis, a head taller than the solicitor, lean and long where the other was thick-bodied and short of limb. His companion was fair-haired, not a man to turn a lady’s head, but attractive in an unobtrusive way.

But it was the black-haired man who held her eye, his leanness giving way to a look of sleek power, his glistening hair blue-black beneath the sun, the strong line of his jaw a backdrop for a softly curved and sensuous mouth. His shoulders were broad enough to carry a gilded suit of armor, Ria mused.

The wind caught the black-haired man’s words and carried them along the wharf before any of the party was aware the girls approached.

“She’s a fine vessel, sound and fast by the look of her hull,” he said. “A runner.”

“And the only ship in the harbor for sale,” Hyatt Landis pointed out, getting a snort from the gap-toothed William Pollack aboard the longboat. Pollack was Landis’s man and lived aboard the Aurelia to keep her safe.

“That, too,” said the black-haired man, smiling. “She will do if the price is agreeable.”

“Count yourself touched by luck. You can have her at a bargain,” Hyatt hastened to say. “No local buyer will have the Aurelia.” He noted the reaction to his words and hastened to explain himself. “Not that she isn’t as seaworthy as you’ve noted. It has nothing to do with the ship. The former owner —”

“The present owner is here,” Ria said sternly. “And if the Aurelia is sold it will be at a fair price for her worth.”

The solicitor had the shifty, uncomfortable look of a man up to no good. Ria felt her anger rise as she closed the distance between them. What right did Hyatt have to tell of her family’s disgrace, as she was sure he had been about to? And after all her father had done for the man. The nerve of him! If Marcus Kingsley did not garner the solicitor’s respect, he at least deserved his silence.

“Why, Ria! And Celeste. I did not expect …” Hyatt, flustered, red-faced, pulled a linen square from his coat pocket and mopped his damp brow. But he recovered quickly, easily slipping into the role of proper gentleman. “What a pleasure to see you,” he said smoothly. “I was just telling Captain Bellamy about the Aurelia and how anxious you are to sell.”

Chane Bellamy had spun on his heels and met the furious glare of eyes the color of a storm-churned north sea. If not for those striking eyes, the girl’s face might have been almost plain; her lips were drawn tight and there was a high color in her cheeks. And her hair was red, a mass of unbridled flame about her head. She wore a pigeon gray gown with an ecru lace collar that must have been handed down through several generations. The somber look of her costume was entirely wrong, too puritan for the stunning hair and eyes. Should he wonder at her station in life, the gown told him plenty: it had a tired, overworn look, the satin piping on the sleeves and the hem of it frayed beyond mending.

The same was true of the other girl’s faded saffron gown. His eyes lingered on her, longer than was courteous. No misuse of color or ill choice of style could dull her beauty or hide the bounty of her curves. Her hair was an exquisite mass of blond curls that framed a perfect china-doll oval face, which was shyly downcast. Her eyes, the brief second he’d seen them beneath the golden lashes, were a soft glowing brown, like big amber gems catching the sunlight. Her skin, fairer than her irate companion’s, was the palest alabaster and looked as if it would be softer than a whisper to the touch.

Any other time he would have been raring to practice his seductive skills on either of the two. But not now. Trouble over a woman had helped put him in his present difficult spot. At the moment, he did not feel kindly disposed toward any one of the fair sex.

From nearby, Chane Bellamy heard his friend, Axel Gresham, gulp a breath and knew that he, too, had been struck by the quiet girl’s extraordinary beauty.

“You did not tell me anyone was interested in the Aurelia,” Ria addressed Hyatt curtly. “As you should have.”

“He came to my office only this afternoon.”

“And I am very anxious to buy, Mademoiselle …”

Hyatt rudely overlooked the introductions. “Of course, I planned to notify you immediately after Captain Bellamy had a look at the Aurelia,” the solicitor responded with a smile, though he clearly did not like the implication that he had acted beyond his authority. “As it’s turned out you’ve saved me a trip to Palmira.”

Ria doubted he was glad of it, since he visited as often as he could find an excuse. Soon he wouldn’t need one. He’d asked her stepmother, Opal, to wed him and as Palmira belonged to Opal, Hyatt would shortly be living in the house with the three of them.

“So I have,” Ria responded. The thought propelled her into a high temper, which took her beyond careful consideration of what she said next. “But perhaps you have wasted the captain’s time,” she said, resting her hands on her hips, thereby sending her silk reticule swinging like a pendulum from one wrist. “I have decided the Aurelia is not for sale.”

“Ria!” Hyatt sputtered, his eyes going first to her face and then suspiciously to the scrolled paper protruding from the reticule she’d hastily concealed in the fullness of her skirts. “What alternative is there but to haul her out to sea and let her rot?” he demanded. “Or would you rather leave her to the mercy of your father’s enemies?” Mottled color spread on the skin above his collar. “My generosity is at an end, I warn you. I will not carry the expense of a useless ship and take on two grown women who are too stubborn for their own good.”

Chane Bellamy listened carefully to the exchange and watched intently the emotions that flared in the girl’s green eyes. There was more afoot here than a disagreement over the sale of a ship. Whatever that difference was did not concern him; the Aurelia did. His vessel, the Trinity, had caught fire and burned a week past. He’d lost none of his crew and the cargo had been offloaded the day before. But without the Trinity he had no way to complete the mission he had set for himself. He needed a replacement vessel, and fast. The Aurelia was it and he meant to have her.

“Mr. Landis,” Chane said, his voice glazed with the accent of his native French tongue. “If you would allow me to talk to the Aurelia’s owner alone, it is possible we could come to an agreement.”

He had a quiet arrogance about him. Ria heard it in the deep resonance of his voice, saw it hidden in the intense blue eyes, shadowed again in the tilt of the strong square chin. He was accustomed to having his way. And he was assessing her, giving her a critical look now that he had torn his eyes from Celeste. She felt him searching out her weaknesses as one might look for cracks in the foundation of a building … to find a place where one might begin to tear it down. She tried to picture herself as he saw her, a silly, penniless girl defying her elders. Pitiable.

Bellamy. Captain Bellamy. So, this was the man she’d heard so much about. On the church grounds following Sunday service, Elizabeth Carter had been telling her friends how many dances she’d shared with a handsome sea captain at a recent ball. “Sky blue eyes, hair black as a raven’s wing, light on his feet as a gypsy dancer,” Elizabeth had described him. Ria remembered, too, the quick disdainful turn of a shoulder and raised chin when Elizabeth had seen her approaching; the snooty girl and her friends had then walked off without so much as a word to Ria.

Hidden in the folds of her skirts, her hands were clenched into tight, aching fists. This Captain Bellamy who was so light on his feet was looking at her as if he could control her as easily as he could ask her to dance.

Her anger flared again, and Ria vowed silently, as she felt his eyes upon her, that this time Captain Bellamy would not get his way.


I hope you enjoyed this preview of Aurelia. Look for the book at your favorite online retailer soon!

See you soon,


Saluting Westerns


My salute to Westerns started with a childhood desire to head out west and with romantic notions about cowboys and cattle ranches and life in the saddle. My musings led to setting  several of my historical novels in the west of my imagination.

I freely admit my old west is based as much on the lore portrayed in old movies and paperbacks as on the gritty reality of life on the range or the hard demands of making a go at a ranching or surviving in one of the mushrooming towns on the frontier.  My Western novels are my salute to that wonderful world, real and imagined,  and the magnificent spirit of all those who tamed it.

Theodora Gamble, the heroine in Devil Moon has that high spirit.  She’s a woman who picks her own roles in life and lives them on her own terms.  She isn’t much for compromise and isn’t easy to live with when she’s forced into one.  Rhys Delmar learned that the day they met.

His new business partner wasn’t exactly what he was expecting…

“Where is this Teddy Gamble?” Rhys Delmar asked as he got out of the stagecoach.  His fine leather valise, along with its contents,  was shot through by no less that three bullet holes. “I need to tell the man he’ll be required to replace my entire wardrobe. ” A lad in the crowd pointed.

Teddy Gamble, attired in fringed buckskin trousers and shirt, and with tightly laced leggings that rose to her knees, had her back to the Frenchman. Rhys looked at the slight form with the masculine clothes and feminine curves and assumed he had discovered the reason for the Gamble Line’s shortcomings. No man with that build was much of a man. Rhys stood and stared. Before he could voice his observations his friend Lucien put them into words.

“N’est-ce pas?” the manservant whispered. “This Monsieur Gamble has the look of an effete, a sissy.”

“At best,” Rhys said moderating his voice too late.

On top of the attack on the stage it was too much. Teddy spun around like a hot desert whirlwind.

“At worst,” she said eyes blazing, voice crackling. “I’m a gal who’s got as much use for a pair of tinhorn, foreign, starched-shirts as I have for a pair of buzzards.”

Rhys’s gaze went to the swell of her breasts. “You are a woman!”

He could not have invited more trouble if he had lit the fuse on a stick of dynamite and tucked it in his pocket.

“Well, thank you for clearing that up.”

 “Mademoiselle Gamble,” he said, with the smooth, deep voice that had weakened many feminine knees. “My apologies. It seems we have gotten off to a bad start.”

“You bet your ass we have!”

. . . And that is only the beginning . . .

Please join me in a tip of the hat to the Old West. 

Devil Moon is slated for release in November and joins Delilah’s Flame as a Guns and Garters Western Romance.  To share the adventure with Teddy and Rhys, keep an eye out for the stage and for announcements of the release of Devil Moon.


Love Letters And Romance

When was the last one written, I wonder.  Where is it now?  Tied up in ribbon, tucked in a drawer or keepsake box, lost in an attic trunk.  Once cherished, love letters, their lasting endearments, may be no more.

There are things to be thankful for about communicating with technology, but much is lost.  No sweetheart can tie up an email file with blue ribbon or twine and hold it next to her heart, or his.  No string of texts, however sweet, can grow yellow with age, or be read again and again over the decades then be refolded and slipped into a tattered, postmarked envelope for safekeeping.

A heart cannot throb with the same thrill at the arrival of an electronic message as it might with the arrival of a letter on familiar stationary in a hand a lover knows as well the face of the loved one.  No lock of hair, or scrap of lace, poem or photograph could ever be more meaningful than as a love token in a letter.  No perfume ever smelled as sweet as that which scents a sweetheart’s missive.

It is a sad loss if love letters disappear even if life must go on and things must change as they always have.  Change now happens with a rapidity that leaves us no time to mourn what has passed.  Some things lost leave a greater void than others, like that of a fine art piece vanished from the enjoyment and enrichment of humanity.

A college sweetheart wrote a letter a day to me one year, sometimes two.  And I returned the sentiments matching each with one of my own.  Sitting at our small desks in shared rooms far from each other we poured out our hearts, named our dreams, and planned life and love.  I can still recall the daily joy of receiving that love note.  Some days I could not wait to return to my room and stopped at a bench under a tree to read words I could have recited without looking. At the end of that year we married.  I sometimes think we were more in love in our letters than together.  The marriage did not last and when it ended, I burned the letters in a ceremonious goodbye.

My mother, more recently, burned the bundles of letters my father wrote to her from overseas when he was away fighting in a war from which he did not return.  She is in her nineties.  She kept them in a trunk in the attic.  I asked why, after so many years, she did not preserve them for her children.  She said they were for her alone and she wanted to keep them in her heart.

I understand.  Love letters touch something in the recipient that no other exchange can mimic.  To know one is thought of with fondness and affection over miles and time, that the one who holds your heart has paused and taken time to choose just the right words, just the right sheet of stationary, just the right token to slip between the folded pages, and has made sure not to miss the postman, is enough to weaken any knee and make a lasting mark on any heart.

Greeting cards are sweet but they are not as straight from the heart as words penned especially for another.  Love letters are romance.  Love letters are valentines that do not need a special day or sweet rhyming lines.  They are deeper, truer.  They are love captured, preserved in ink and paper, worthy of being tied in satin ribbon and kept through the ages.  They may be, may become, only a practice of the past but if we are wise, the writing of love letters will not become a lost art.

With love,

Andrea Parnell


Postscript:  TOPIC  is in the Air!  SEE: http://www.cnn.com/2012/02/10/opinion/bauerlein-love-letters/

“Did Facebook kill love letters?”


An Excerpt from Delilah’s Flame


Delilah’s Flame

Smiling, Delilah invited Tabor to a table and asked Fat Jack to send over the bottle of French wine she’d had delivered to the bar. One thing she had never been able to master was drinking the horrible whiskey these places served. While she waited, she gave Ta­bor, seated beside her, an analytical look. Rugged, he had a trace of arrogance only half-hidden in the gray eyes. That at least didn’t surprise her. His hair was black, a bit too long. Did that mean he couldn’t afford the price of a haircut? At least he was clean and smelled . . . rather nice.

The barkeep came and poured her wine. She eyed her companion more discreetly now: worn boots, gray cord pants, a black shirt and leather vest. The gunbelt and ivory-handled guns were probably the most ex­pensive items of his attire. He didn’t look as if he’d fared as well financially as his former companions. She saw a ray of hope. If Stanton had become just a drifter or cowhand, concocting a quick plan would be easy. She could be done with Tabor Stanton before she left Yuba City.

Her eyes narrowed slightly. “Won’t you join me?” she asked, signaling the barkeep to wait a moment.

“No, thank you. I’ll stay with whiskey.” Reluctantly the barkeep left, his gaze so intent on Delilah he backed into a customer and got splashed with beer.

Tabor’s eyes hovered on her too. With the grace and refinement of a duchess she sipped her wine. He could easily believe the talk that she was from down-in-the-pocket British aristocracy. As a naval officer he had spent time in England. Only the years of training genteel British girls received in the social arts could account for her elegant manners.

He couldn’t figure Delilah out. That diamond around her throat would keep a good-size estate running a couple of years. That she had so much tied up in the diamonds dispelled the theory she was in need. She was a riddle, all right, a beautiful, tempting one. A grin manifested itself on his lips as he recalled he had always liked a good riddle.

Thank you for stopping by to read an excerpt from Delilah’s Flame, an Historical Western Romance by Andrea Parnell

Purchase Delilah’s Flame at these stores now:

DARK PRELUDE, an excerpt of the prequel to Dark Splendor

Dark Prelude (a prequel to my historical Gothic romance novel Dark Splendor) is free and is available at all major ebook  retailers.

Read Dark Prelude as a free download from Amazon Kindle Store.

Dark Prelude

There is a serpent in thy smile, my dear,
And bitter poison within thy tear.
—Shelley, The Cenci

Chapter 1

Shivering miserably, Silvia Bradstreet, clutched her heavy woolen cloak against the wind, her gloomy thoughts little better than the weather. Had she come to this? That she would freeze to death on the London streets? Winter held a formidable grip on the city, shutting out the sun with murky, grey clouds and the bitter pelting of a late snow that fell to the streets like a shower of brimstone to become dingy slush mottled by tracks of those unfortunate enough to be about in the treacherous weather.

The fierce wind bore a chilling moisture from the sea as it wailed between blackened buildings, sounding like the mournful cry of despairing souls. How foolish she had been not to defy Uncle Hollister. Lately he had grown impossible, his sober days largely outnumbered by the drunken ones. But to send her on a fool’s errand in such weather was demeaning and cruel.

Still, she had little choice.

At times her uncle flew into a scalding rage over the simplest matter and she had begun to fear for her safety. Today his attack of angry words had wounded her pride and brought a flood of tears to her eyes. “Curse me, Missy. I’ll be master of this house ’til my dying day and I’ll not have you trying to run it for me,” he had shouted and kicked a chair across the kitchen. “Left to you we would eat nothing but soup and stew! Now get to the butcher and buy the chops and have a dinner on the table this night that’ll fill a man’s belly! And don’t be forgetting your place again!”

With that he had taken the stewpot from the stove and tossed it into the street. She choked back a lump in her throat. No danger she would forget her place again. She had no place. Her once kindly uncle had turned caustic and she was little more than a maid to him.

She sighed ruefully, then set her jaw and trudged on. Lips, blue from the cold, curved into a deeper frown. She had a more immediate concern than Uncle Hollister’s abominable disposition— getting home before the cold claimed her. Because of her uncle’s poor credit, she had been forced to walk blocks farther to find a butcher they did not owe. Passing the docks, as she made her way home with the bundle, the wind roared colder and stronger, biting and stinging her face like a spray of icy needles.

Behind her a carriage rattled its way along the cobbled street, spinning dirty snow behind its wheels. Before she could jump aside, a splash of filthy wetness splattered her cloak. The carriage swept past while Silvia shook the snow from her garment. Almost instantly a stabbing cold pierced the damp fabric to sap the little remaining warmth in her body.

She could fight the chill no longer and drew into the narrow, secluded entry of a shipping company to escape the angry wind. A lantern mounted beside the door flickered haltingly in the dimness of the winter afternoon.

Silvia folded her arms across her chest. Still she shivered with cold. She thought dejectedly of her situation. There was no reasoning with Uncle Hollister. He would have his way and damn those who tried to deter him. She sighed dispiritedly, longing to reach the warmth of the kitchen. But the numbness of her feet and the thought of the rude welcome she would receive from Uncle Hollister kept her from hurrying back along the street.

Slumping against the wall in despair, Silvia brushed the snow from her lashes with the back of a dusky wool mitten. Her gaze lingered on a notice posted beside a window frame in the entryway. The lines blurred together until her eyes cleared.

Able bodied men and women wanted
Passage paid
Sailing date: the twentieth of March, in the year of our Lord, one thousand and fifty-one.

15 Things I Learned About Life From Reading Romance Novels

Nearly 75 million Americans read at least one romance novel last year.  General book sales in the U.S. dropped nearly 2 percent (in 2009) but sales of romance novels rose almost 8 percent, equaling 14 percent of all fiction sold and $1.4 billion in revenue. Harlequin Enterprises alone earned $485 million.  In 2010 romance fiction was the number two category in eBook sales.

That’s serious business. Sure the heroines have gotten bolder, more butt-kicking babe than damsel in distress and the heroes haven’t, though sometimes they are dead guys with fangs. The stories, at core, are still about relationships and love and making it all work against the impossible odds of a complicated life.

That said, there has to be something more readers are getting out of  romance novels than just another happy ending.  Some life lessons, perhaps.  Recently I came across a greeting card a friend sent me early in my writing career that helps explain just what those lessons are and why romance is a growing genre in fiction sales.

All I Need To Know About Life I Learned From Reading Steamy Novels

  1. There’s never enough dirty parts.
  2. Good guys finish last.
  3. Really good guys take forever to finish.
  4. Always have the ring appraised before you say yes.
  5. Everyone has an evil twin.
  6. The more expensive the suit, the sleazier the guy.
  7. Sex is trouble.
  8. No sex is more trouble.
  9. The bitch is always more interesting.
  10. Women are catty; men are dogs.
  11. Everyone is jealous of someone.
  12. If creamy white thighs and heaving bosoms don’t raise your temperature, you’re dead.
  13. The biggest thing in a man’s trousers should be his wallet.


I’m adding two more:

     14.  But not the only thing in his trousers.

     15.  Happy endings can lead to a sequel.


Please comment with your additions to the list if you wish.


Romantic Heroes And Their Loves

Writing a romance you get to fall in love with a new guy for a while.  When the book is finished and in the hands of readers, you say goodbye to your hero and move on to the next man in your life.  Breaking up is sad and difficult but in your writer’s heart you know he’ll be back and no matter how many fans and new sweethearts he has, you will always be his first love.

The heroes in my novels have been flaxen-haired, ebony-haired, had blue eyes and brown and shades of each, though I admit a weakness for the black-haired, blue-eyed heart-throb. They are generally tall and muscular, sometimes lean and fit. They have amazing prowess and are generally the sort of men who have to peel women off them.

A little dark and dangerous in spirit, but good deep down and an ever ready champion of those in need. Those are the loves of my life. Bad boys, good hearts.

Roman Toller in Dark Splendor is blonde and bold and forgets he is supposed to be a gentleman way too much.  Ryne Sullivan in Whispers at Midnight looks nothing like my predecessor love, Roman, but is equally negligent of his gentlemanly skills. Dark-haired Tabor Stanton in Delilah’s Flame has good reason to forget how to treat a lady, and he does.

Blame Lilah Damon. She deliberately forgets she is a lady of society. As Delilah she is bawdy and bad and adventurous and bent on revenge and really good at making men pay for their wrongs. Tabor doesn’t like the price and sets another.

Lilah is a redhead. I always thought it would be fun to have red hair. And it is! I’ve tried it twice as heroines in my books. Those girls have pluck!

Amanda Fairfax in Whispers at Midnight matches wits with Ryne and loses her heart just where she wants it to be found. Beauty, fierce determination that neither ghosts nor villains could break. Amanda gets her man and more.

Silvia Bradstreet, my first heroine for romantic readers, has all a damsel in distress must. She is lovely, vulnerable, curious to a fault, drawn to Roman, a man she cannot trust, and trapped on an island where there is no escape. Did I mention she has the wardrobe of a princess?

Slipping into the skin of a heroine is as heady as gazing into the blue, amber, green or gray eyes of a hero. It is love.

Fall in love again, in a past century. Roman, Ryne and Tabor will make the heart beat faster. Silvia, Amanda and Lilah will renew what you love about being a woman, or what you are looking for in one.

Watch out for villains. They are sure to show up in another post.  Like the heroes and heroines from my heart, the bad guys never behave as I expect.  Listen for the knock.

Dark Prelude, a prequel to Dark Splendor, now available

Dark Prelude, a novella-length prequel to my sexy Gothic romance novel Dark Splendor, is now available free from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Smashwords and other ebook retailers. Dark Prelude is an expression of thanks to my readers.  It is yours to download and enjoy.

Dark PreludeIf you have read Dark Splendor, (and I thank you if you have), you know the protagonists first meet aboard the Eastwind. What you don’t know is that the story almost began a different way.

Handsome sea captain Roman Toller and his irascible brother Morgan made their appearance in London some days before boarding the Eastwind for a journey to their Uncle’s private island off the Georgia colony of 1751.  Their days were spent indulging in food and drink, their nights in debauchery with the damsel of the day.

Across London, lovely and resourceful Silvia Bradstreet was scrapping to keep her life together until she could escape on the same ship.  Her days were occupied with work and worry, her nights with fear and dread of her Uncle Hollister who had made her a servant in his home.

That the three of them should meet was inevitable but how and when became a study in fate, a glimpse of how a single event can change everything.  But that is more my story than theirs.  I wrote the first few chapters of my first novel Dark Splendor and sent it off to an editor at Signet Books.  Those chapters earned a multiple book contract for me and swelled my heart with joy that I was about to become a published author.

With the papers signed and the deadlines established, my editor said, “Start the book where those chapters end.”  A novice at this game, I dared not question but agonized over the loss of my golden words in those first chapters.  She was right, of course.  I realized that later as I dealt with length restrictions.  With a new beginning, the story veered in a new direction, thus Dark Prelude is more character study than missing chapters.  Nevertheless, I tucked those early pages in a file and kept them.

Today they have become Dark Prelude, a novella that explores the lives of Roman and Morgan and Silvia and how things might have been had they first met a few hours earlier. If you have read Dark Splendor, or when you read it, you will see that, indeed, a single event that does or does not take place changes the course of many lives, and, sometimes, a book.

Dark Prelude is a gift to my romantic readers, both new and old.  It is a chance to chuckle at the antics of Roman and Morgan and to appreciate Silvia’s tenuous relationship with the two of them. Hopefully, you will decide to follow up with Dark Splendor or another of my books.  If not, enjoy the read and meeting these three characters who are dear to my heart.


Romance covers have evolved.  The clench, that passionate embrace with the love-charged gazes, ruled romance covers for decades.  Historicals generally featured a pair of stunningly attractive models in period costume and in a daringly posed clench who were photographed then painted in acrylic on canvas.  The clench cover was effective when books were displayed on shelves in book stores, superstores and grocery stores in abundance.

Over time the women featured on romance covers have evolved from support role heroines to heroines in a fantasy to today’s stronger heroine who is more in a partnership with the hero.  Many newer covers feature a woman alone or dominating a man.  Paranormal romances are a significant part of the market at present and showcase heroines for every imagination. Vampire hunters, military women and what a recent article referred to as “butt-kicking babes” have emerged.

Covers today are likely to feature a headless couple with knockout bodies allowing the reader’s imagination to determine exactly what they look like.  Others feature only the hero, allowing the reader to insert themselves as heroine or they feature only the heroine so that the reader can appreciate that she is the strong, dominate character.

More and more books are purchased online or as ebooks and the way covers are produced has changed as well.  Most appear to be produced straight from photographs, skipping the artist with a brush.  Ebook purchasers may be looking at only a stamp sized cover so it must have punch.

The gorgeous covers for the e-versions of my books Dark Splendor and Whispers at Midnight were designed by Frauke Spanuth at Croco Designs.  Any reservations I had about digital art covers was quickly put to rest when I saw her work.  The covers are terrific and capture the historical elements of the Gothic storyline in an edgier, high impact way that is right for today’s market and the eBook trade.  I have always appreciated cover art and now I am a fan of Croco Designs. I am eagerly awaiting Croco’s cover concept for my next release, Delilah’s Flame, a Western Historical Romance.

I mean it when I say I appreciate cover art. In my house is a four by eight foot poster of my Western Historical Romance Devil Moon given to me by my publisher after a conference in Nashville. It’s by Pino.  It hangs in my office.  I’ve seen it every day for years and still love the colors and the romantic pose (and, of course, that it is my book).

Covers will continue to evolve as technology continues to change the way we connect with books.  Clench covers will hang on even if there are fewer of them.  I’m hanging on to my library of paperback romance novels.  Those original covers may become desirable collectibles one day and the stories are still great.

Covers change.  Romance lives on.

Author Andrea Parnell snapshot with cover model Fabio



postscript: Fabio, the epitome of cover hunks graciously posed with me at a writers conference in California.  It was a fun moment.